Not long ago I engaged in a limited debate on Twitter with a guy named Jack Marshall who fancies himself an “ethics expert.” He has a web site called “Pro-Ethics” I was critical of a piece he had written about “The Biking Vogels”. The Vogels who are biking enthusiasts, decided to take their children on what can only be described as a bike trek of anyone’s lifetime. It was not all fun and games however. Here is how Marshall described it:
……..the Vogels set out in June on an even longer journey, from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to the tip of Argentina. This 20,000 mile trek will take about thirty months, two and a half years. To read the Vogel’s breezy and cheerful accounts of their endless travels, one would think this is recreation—but it is, in fact, a business. The Vogels accept direct on-line contributions to their “educational quest,” have corporate sponsors, and frequently persuade those they meet on their journey to give them money and food. The only differences between the Vogels’ lifestyle and the Gypsies portrayed in old movies and operettas are that the Vogels have a website, don’t play tambourines, and use bicycles instead of a wagon.
His position seems to be that the trek was not motivated by anything as lofty as the parents wanting to “better their children” but by the reality show, profit mentality which in my opinion is “dumbing down” this country significantly. They were in effect, pimping out their kids to danger for their personal profit and fame at the cost of physical danger to their children and risking their mental futures. He came down hard on the parents. I was critical of his opinion. Adventure is a great. It is a character builder. I was irritated. Who was he, who had never met the children or parents to cast judgment on the bike trek of a lifetime. Something that would probably shape their view of the world and give them a perspective that would better them in all aspects of their lives.
Then I paused. The more I thought about it, the more I kept hearing myself referring to it in the context of what I might want for my children. Would I put them though that? How would that fit into my hopes and dreams? Is that an appropriate question when deciding whats best for my kids? Would it make me any better than the “John and Kates” and the Falcon Heene’s of the world? Pushing my children into danger and reality show recognition based my dreams and desires. The children would have little choice.
Now we have 16 year old Abby Sutherland and her failed and dangerous attempt to be the youngest person to sail around the world. There is a lot of chatter out there that the parents pushed her into it without regard for her safety and again, with a reality show mentality. The father of Sutherland , admitting he was broke, told the The New York Post that he had a deal for a reality TV show based on the lives of his daughter and other 6 kids. The cost to rescue her will approach $300,000.
There is no buffer in the parent child relationship where these extreme events are concerned. No one to tells the children it’s ok to not want what their parents want. Or we may tell them with the subtext that our dreams are really theirs. Bike around the world? Lets do it Dad! Sail around the world at 16? Who wouldn’t! Children do not like to disappoint. Where is the real choice? Whose dreams are they really following? At what cost? Maybe Marshall’s criticism is warranted.