The Coast Guard received a distress call on Thursday from their boat Rebel Heart, which had lost power and communication about 900 miles off the coast of Mexico. A toddler on board, Lyra Kaufman, was very ill and not responding to medication. After being picked up by the USS Vandegrift, the Kaufman family is said to be safe and in good spirits — and Lyra is in stable condition.
It’s no surprise that a family with young children at sea has drawn ire from other parents. Accusations of abuse have shown up on the family's personal blog, as well as in fiery comments on news outlets covering the story.
Some have shown support — especially those with sailing experience. Liz Lipinski, mom of two, jokes, “It sounds like the way I pictured parenting before I had two kids prone to motion sickness." She adds, “I think that when we aren’t familiar with something, it’s really easy to be scared… I wonder if people are so risk-averse they have forgotten how to live.”
The parents maintain that this has been their way of life for over 7 years and that they had taken proper precautions, including traveling with a satellite phone. In October 2012, Charlotte Kaufman addressed safety issues about sailing with children on her personal blog, saying that they had done a great deal of research and would never put their family in harm’s way.
The Kaufmans were seasoned sailors, not newbies to the sport. Charlotte Kaufman writes, "It is far, far more dangerous to drive every day on the freeway than it is to sail from San Diego to Mexico or even around the world.” She's correct. It isn’t often we hear about a shipwreck claiming lives — but adults and children are killed in motor vehicle accidents daily and we accept this as part of our way of life.
No matter what precautions are taken, accidents happen. Babies get sick, whether on land or at sea. The Kaufman family happened to be living off the beaten path when illness struck. Does this make them irresponsible?
Personally, I’d like to give the Kaufmans a pat on the back. In a world where kids don’t even know how to cut their own meat because parents are afraid to give them a plastic knife (let alone a real one) teaching young kids about nature by living at sea is refreshing.
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