Abby Sunderland: Teen Sailor's Disappearance Scares Moms Everywhere

Flickr photo by Abby SunderlandFlickr photo by Abby SunderlandParents everywhere breathed a collective sigh of relief when missing teen sailor Abby Sunderland was found in the Indian Ocean.

Honestly, her parents' decision to let her try to sail around the world had many parents shaking their heads even before she disappeared.

But none of us wanted to be put in the "I told you so" position.

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No matter what you thought (admit it, you thought it) about the 16-year-old Sunderland's circumnavigation of the globe, you wanted it to turn out alright.

So what were parents thinking as MaryAnne Sunderland announced to ABC News that her daughter sent out two emergency beacons in the Pacific and the crew thinks she's lost at sea?

That the hard knock we get for being overbearing, overinvolved helicopter parents who stunt our children's growth may just be better than not having a child at all.


That's my job. I'm the parent. Not my daughter's best friend or her cheerleader. I tell her to put down the Zhu Zhu Pet and get in bed. I tell her to brush her teeth so they don't rot out of her head and to eat her broccoli or there's no dessert.

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I hate playing the heavy. But that's how I keep her from burning her hand on the stove, walking into traffic, eating dirt.

I'm here, as the old proverb says, to give her roots and wings. Roots first. Because without them, there is no chance to fly -- or to float in this instance.

Circumnavigating the globe solo is dangerous. And it proves what, exactly? That one can beat the elements? That one can "do it"?

As my father said when I was a kid, that and 50 cents would get you a cup of coffee (what can I say -- there's been some inflation).

At best she gains from it a great story for her college admission essays. But millions of kids get into college without them.

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So what, again, did she gain? A selfish accomplishment, a fool's journey.

It's OK to support our kids as they strive to better themselves. But it's just as important to provide them with a sense of priorities.

If helicopter parents aren't providing their kids with enough sense of responsibility, neither are the free-wheeling parents who allow their children to think their whims carry real weight in the world.

I felt for the Sunderlands. It was not the time for I told you sos -- we are all making mistakes in parenting. But here's hoping our mistakes are righted in the end.

Here's hoping that Abby Sunderland is OK.

Written by Jeanne Sager for CafeMom's blog, The Stir.

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