|Our miserable, tethered child. Such a sad thing to see.|
I wish you safe travel! However, I hope you will consider that your influence may embolden less able sailors to embark on a like journey -- unequipped and naive to the risks. I recently read, and firmly believe, that house boating on the high seas is a risk for toddlers and children under eight. It saddens me to see a toddler tied up in a harness instead of having the freedom to run and play. You think they will have fond memories but, in fact, the memories and rewards will be for the parents alone. It may be a bit selfish to seek this kind of adventure as young parents. You have many supporters but you most likely will never hear from voices of reason who strongly disagree. I hope you will be responsible and tell the world of the negative aspects of your voyage instead of painting a picture that is both unrealistic and dangerous. Do you really want to encourage young parents to abandon their home, take a few sailing lessons, purchase a houseboat, and take a baby and a toddler on THEIR adventure? Please add a caveat to your blog!While my first reaction was to open up and lash out with lots of exclamation points , I then re-read - took a deep breath - and laughed, actually chuckled out loud, at this confused woman who clearly has not the slightest clue how we live our life and raise our baby. I did write her back and while I didn't use any curse words, I don't think she'll be writing us anymore. Anyone who has met me in person will say I am very nice, but those who know me really well know that I am nobody's fool and once you cross me...well...my sweetness turns sour.
We get a lot of emails these days. I'd say 90% are positive, 8% are spam offers and sponsorship requests and the remaining 2% are from Judgey McJudgerton's like Mrs. B above. I know a lot of you believe that I should just ignore folks like these and usually I do, but I feel that this woman makes a few points that really need to be addressed, lest there be more folks like her out there in cyberspace ready to email us ridiculousness like this.
So with no further ado:
- On "house boating": The terminology here really bugged me. We live on a blue-water sailboat. It is not a houseboat. A houseboat is a floating trailer home, a pimped out pontoon boat, and has no business being on the open ocean. Our boat was built to do what we are doing with it. What we are doing is cruising on a sailboat. It's much safer and the glaring difference between the two is worth noting. Call me a stickler for lexicon, but come on - we are NOT house boating. (Interestingly enough I would be curious to know this "article" she references, but of course she did not include it in her email. For future judgers: cite your sources!)
- On our child being "tied up in a harness": We live on a boat that is surrounded by the OCEAN so keeping our poor, suffering child clipped into the cockpit is a necessity. But you want to know something? She is "tethered" for about 3% of her waking life. And you know what else? She has zero problem with it. I am willing to bet a left lung that our child gets significantly more time "running free" than most land-lubber babies. She spends almost ALL of her time outside, in nature; swimming in the ocean, collecting shells on the beach, playing outside with other boater children. There is incredible research that proves being in nature is good for brain development, happiness and health - and Isla is out there, running (tether) free for hours and hours almost every single day. Furthermore, unlike most children her age she yet to watch any T.V. Do you know how many hours most kids in the USA watch television? It's insane. Even the T.V people say it's bad for kids. And, in our opinion, time spent in front of the 'boob tube' is WAY more dangerous and detrimental to a baby's development than a few hours spent in a safety harness. Furthermore, aren't landlubber peers "strapped" to seats in cars for safety? I fail to see the difference here...
- On her "memories": This is one of my favorites and I always love when people use the argument "well, she's not going to remember any of this, so why do it?" If this (ridiculous) logic were true - then why don't all of us parents get together, stick our infants in front of televisions all day long and enjoy the silence for the first couple of years? Why do we expend so much energy on them, loving them, reading to them, cuddling them, taking them on walks...etc and - in general - spending so much of our precious time on them - time that could be spent on Facebook or watching Lost reruns - if they won't remember it? Why? Because these are the most formative years of their lives and whatever we expose them to now will effect them forever, that's why. Isla might not "remember" the fact that she first learned to walk in the Bahamas or now says "Or awa" to say "goodbye" because at the moment she plays only with French-speaking kids who say "Au revoir", but you know what - it's doing something and all this exposure to new people, places and nature is shaping her brain, her world view and her personality. She might not have "memories", but these things will be etched forever in her character.
- On our "selfishness": This seems to be a theme amongst the judgies out there. We're selfish. Well, let's see: Isla is being raised by both of her parents, she is loved, adored, and not a single one of her needs goes un-met. She has never spent more than 24 hours away from us and, gets a tremendous amount of love from us and pretty much makes new friends everywhere she goes. She is exposed to new faces, places, languages and cultures daily - but all the while she comes back to her familiar home (a sailboat) and her trusted mommy and daddy. She is incredibly secure, insanely happy, and very, very smart for her age. I could go on and on and on, but suffice it to say: we're not just doing this for us. We're doing it for her as well. She's not just along for the ride, she's a big part of why we're on this ride.
- On the "dangerousness" of sailing with a baby: Okay. You win. Sailing with a baby is dangerous. But so is sending your child to school, letting them sleep at a friend's house, going to daycare, leaving them with a babysitter, driving in a car with you, going to the grocery store, crossing the street, going to the park, eating grapes whole, going up and down stairs, climbing trees, running on the sidewalk, talking to strangers, playing in your backyard, juggling knives and - in general - living. LIVING is dangerous, people. Do NOT leave your homes. You have been warned.
- On our "emboldening others": I would never suggest that anyone with a toddler go out, buy a boat and do what we are doing. But I wouldn't necessarily dissuade them either. I think the USA has sort of gone into a default mode where we believe that we should be completely taken care of and we don't need to take any responsibility for our decisions, because someone else makes them. Why is it my responsibility to tell people if they should or should not do whatever it is they want to do? If they read this blog, feel inspired and make the choice to live like we do then it is THEIR choice. If it turns out to be a grave mistake because they didn't do THEIR homework, how is this my fault? We have a lot of experience, did a ton of research and made some very conscious choices before we embarked on this lifestyle. I am pretty open about the fact that cruising is NOT for everyone and it is NOT easy. But to put a litigious caveat on my blog to tell people with babies that "this might be dangerous for you and your child"...? That is ridiculous. If you can't figure that out for yourself, then...well...you have bigger problems. Anyway, we already have a disclaimer on our site and one is enough for me.
Okay (wiping hands together with a big, toothy grin). I think that about covers it. I wanted to get a few of those things off my chest and I feel better now that I have cleared the air for any future emails that may come our way. I understand that some people might not agree with our choices and may be ignorant to our lifestyle, and that's okay. That's normal - there are plenty of parents I have seen (mostly at carnivals) that I don't understand or agree with but you don't see me grabbing the popsicle out of their six month old's mouth. To each his own, that's what I say. This diversity is what makes the world go 'round and keeps things interesting. But the second you attack my parenting and start flinging ridiculous judgements my way, well, I'm gonna fling right back.
Look, I am not saying that raising a baby on a boat is superior to raising a baby on land, and I am certainly not saying that it doesn't come without it's own unique set of challenges. But this works for us and, so far, we're more than thrilled with the results. No matter where you raise you child, be it at sea, on land or in a tree house - there will be positives and negatives, ups and downs, advantages and disadvantages. There is no "perfect" scenario or method and every child/parent combo is unique. What I can say with absolute certainty is this: our child is incredibly happy, insanely loved, and is blessed with a tremendous amount of our time. And - last I checked - those are the most important things we can give our kids.
So there you have it. If you meet Jimmy Buffett you might end up in a song, and if you piss me off, you might end up in a blog post. You have been warned.