The Kaufmans are possibly the most talked about family in America. The family of four were recently plucked from their sailboat, The Rebel Heart – their home for the past seven years as they sailed around the world. The boat had lost all its steering and most of its communications six days ago, and was taking on water when rescuers found the stranded family. Making the matter most crucial was the condition of their 1-year-old daughter, Lyra, who was feverish and vomiting from possible salmonella poisoning. The family arrived in San Diego today, and will be taking time to recover before talking with the press.
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The fact that Eric and Charlotte Kaufman, parents of Lyra and her 3-year-old sister Cora, were sailing around the world with such young children is causing a passionate debate among families across the nation. Some are accusing the Kaufmans of reckless parenting, putting their young children in peril by staying at sea when they began having children. Others are applauding the young family for taking on such an adventure.
My take? Every family is different, and every family has their “norm.” For the majority of us, sailing around the world is not something that would be normal for our family. But for the Kaufman’s, they were sailing before the kids were even born. Those children saw being at sea as every day life. It’s no less normal than the families who live in huts in the middle of a jungle, families who have only one parent, kids who live in the projects, kids who live in mansions…. (speaking of which, you should check out the photo project of “Where Children Sleep” by photographer James Mollison for an eye-opening look at the economic differences in families around the world).
This was what the Kaufman family knew – sailing as a way of life.
And bad things happen in families, things we don’t plan for. The Kaufmans didn’t plan for their boat to break down, or for their toddler to get as sick as she did. Houses can burn down, leaving a family displaced. Pipes can break, roofs can leak, homes can be burglarized. Kids can catch colds, catch pneumonia, catch cancer. It doesn’t matter whether a family is on a sailboat around the world or cooped up away from germs in their home. The unplanned can happen.
Did being at sea make it more difficult for the Kaufman family to receive adequate care? Sure. But should they have stayed close to shore once they had kids? I don’t think so. Having been sailing for so long, I don’t believe the Kaufman’s were guilty of reckless parenting. I believe they were including their kids in a lifestyle they had already laid the foundation. And I hope that when little Lyra recovers, the family is able to take to the seas once again.
What do you think?