I have been following the news on the Abby Sunderland story, and have been fascinated with the overall reaction from media. First, I will say, I can make no judgements on her parents. I do not know their motives, I cannot know their hearts, and there are many things none of us will ever know about the situation. I don't know how well prepared she was, or if there are things they should have done differently. That said, what I find fascinating is that the media reaction is one of complete judgement on the parents. How could they do this? How could they endanger their child this way? I admit, I have no idea what I would do in their shoes. I know when I first heard she was lost, I felt the pain of a mother's heart, fearing she was gone, and praying for her safe return. It is hard for me to imagine sending my daughter off alone to sail around the world. On the other hand, it brings to mind just how far we have come in extending childhood well beyond its proper time. For thousands of years, teenagers have been considered adults. Church tradition teaches us that the Theotokos was as young as 13 or 14 when she gave birth to Christ. At the age of 15 Benjamin Franklin founded the first independent newspaper of the New England Colonies. At age 17, George Washington became the first land surveyor in Virginia. Sacajawea was a young girl of 16 or 17 when she crossed America with Lewis and Clark, while giving birth along the way. Jessica Watson (also 16) successfully completed her solo sail around the world just weeks ago. Columbus may have gone to sea as early as the age of 10. St. Nicholas was "just a child" when he became bishop of Myra. What is the difference? Why have we become a culture that thinks it is a good idea to allow 25 year old "children" to remain on their parent's health insurance? How can anyone say with a straight face the phrase "25 year old child"! We say it, because that is what our culture has created. Schools do not encourage children to become independent thinkers. They do not teach children how to be adults. How can a child learn to be an adult, when he spends most of his time in a room with a group of other children? There they learn the habits of other children, rather than the habits of adults. They learn the behaviours of other children, not how to become individuals who think and act as adults.
My reaction is congratulations Abby! Congratulations to a young woman who spent her early teen years studying the sea, gaining nautical skills most of us will never acquire. Just imagine the education she has received! She didn't spend her time partying, or being a petulant adolescent. She spent it learning to think. She learned how to learn, she learned how to handle dangerous situations. She learned how to survive on her own. She learned to make decisions under pressure. She learned self discipline. She gained an amazing work ethic. She learned just how strong she really is. She will have the confidence to succeed at anything in the future. She has braved things most of us never will. So I congratulate Abby, and her parents for having the courage to allow their "child" to learn so much, and I thank God for protecting her. If you want a better understanding of why there are so few Abby Sunderland's these days, I suggest picking up a copy of Dumbing Us Down, or Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto.