I've been following the story of Abby Sunderland for a couple of days now, since they announced she was "lost at sea" and then her miraculous rescue. I am impressed with this young woman and her tenacious spirit. Her zest for sailing and courage to take on such a daunting task as sail around the world by herself at the tender age of 16 is nothing short of stunning. As I was reading many of the comments that have been left on Abby's blog, 99% of them were incredibly supportive of Abby and her endeavor. And why shouldn't they be? Her journey ultimately failed, but she made it 3/4 of the way! Most of us could never dream of sailing out of our home harbor, much less setting foot on the boat.
But there was that other 1% who were incredibly rude and condescending. It made me sad that at a time when Abby is grieving the loss of her dream and her boat, these bitter critics are blasting her for being irresponsible. Excuse me? The kid sailed around the world, braved incredible storms, and lived by herself on a sailboat for several months. She's shown a level of maturity that is lacking in the majority of her peers. Hell, I know of several ADULTS who don't have that level of maturity! These same critics had harsh words for her parents in allowing her to do this, calling them irresponsible, endangering their children's lives, idiotic, and a good many other things. The critics talked about the costs of having to rescue Abby and that her parents should be responsible for the bill since it was their foolish decision that caused her to be out there in the first place. I can understand the sentiment of asking Abby's family to pay for her rescue, but are they truly neglectful by allowing her to chase a dream she's harbored since the age of 13?
My daughter's godmother told me once that becoming a mother was to learn to walk with your heart outside your body. Can you imagine letting it sail around the world by itself, far beyond your reach? But that is what we are called to do as parents. We are called every day to teach our children how to survive physically and emotionally without us. When you look at the lifespan of a human being in the US these days, our children spend the majority of their lives without their parents. We do a huge disservice to our children if we don't provide them the tools and skills to survive their lives without us. Having already let their son Zac complete the same trip at 16, I'm sure the Sunderlands were well aware of the risks it involved. They were very certain of the equipment and training Abby would need to complete her journey. And I bet they thought and prayed long and hard over whether they should say yes to her request.
So no, I don't think Abby's parents are neglectful at all. Abby survived the Indian Ocean during the worst time of year to sail it thanks to the training her parents provided, to the tools they had given her. She survived because her parents had faith in her abilities and placed their trust in God that she would be alright. One of the comments that Abby's parents have used in defense of their actions is that it's more dangerous for teenagers to be driving in a car than sailing on the ocean and I couldn't agree more wholeheartedly. We live in fear of kidnappings and murders happening to our children, and yet about 4000 kids aged 13-19 die in car accidents every year. Do you know how many kids get kidnapped by a stranger and murdered in the U.S.? Roughly 115 per year. We don't hear much about the kids dying in car wrecks because it doesn't sell. If I were in the Sunderland's shoes and deciding whether or not to let my daughter go on this trip, the stats alone would tell me that Abby is definitely safer out on the ocean than at home driving to the beach with her buddies.
I feel sad for the people who criticise Abby and her family for this journey. I imagine that the majority of these people are helicopter parents, constantly hovering around their children and refusing to acknowledge that their children could even remotely achieve anything worthwhile in their lives without their parents intervention. I imagine too, that a good many of them once harbored a dream like Abby's, but it never got off the ground. Now they point fingers in jealousy, trying to tear down an idealistic young woman in an effort to make themselves feel better. And the majority of these critics may also be people who have held themselves back from their dreams because they were afraid fo what society might say about them. Say what they will, the critics are the ones who lose out by choosing to see the negative aspects of Abby's journey instead of what she has accomplished.
And what has accomplished? Suffering equipment malfunctions, she carried on, determined to finish what she started, even if she wouldn't break the record she sought to undo. She has inspired countless teens (and adults!) to follow their dreams through whatever obstacles they encounter. Her parents have inspired countless moms and dads like myself and Michael to be courageous in the face of growth and change. My mother always told me that everything happens for a reason; I'd like to believe that Abby's failure at completing her trip is going to encourage many out there to get back up after they've fallen and ride, sail or fly.
I hope, like my mother taught me so many times when learning how to ride horses, that Abby will get back in the saddle and make this journey again. Even if she doesn't, I hope she'll her story and journey with others and rejoice in the accomplishment she DID achieve. I hope too, that as Sybilla ages and grows, that I will have the strength and courage to watch my heart sail around the world without me.