While yesterday Good Enough Mother was just sort of scratching her head, today she is OUTRAGED! It’s about the young woman who was trying to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world. Now we’re hearing that it was her father her put her in harm’s way because he has a deal for a reality television show!
WHAT IS THAT ABOUT?!
Lawrence Sunderland lives with his pregnant wife and 7 kids in a middle class suburb in LA. According to published reports, he’s also broke. He says the seeds for Abby Sunderland’s journey were sown three years ago when she was just 13 (in other words this was her idea and she REALLY wanted to do it) but he also envisioned a reality show about his adventurous brood. TV cameras started filming his family about 4 months ago, though Sunderland was vague when asked what the show might be about.
But while you scratch your head (you, the mommy, who takes very seriously her job to protect her children and keep them safe) don’t you wonder what it is with these parents who are so blinded by the lights of fame and the draw of fortune that they would put their own kids in potential danger? I can think of two examples off the top of my head, Balloon boy and Jon and Kate Gosselin.
Balloon boy is the kid who was thought to be trapped in an out of control hot air balloon in Colorado. Turns out the only thing out of control was his father, who planned the whole stunt to position the family for a better shot at a reality TV show.
Then there’s Jon and Kate plus 8, the nice, Pennsylvania family who struggled raising twins and sextuplets. Their marriage ultimately cracked like a cheap safe in front of the cameras and Jon and Kate divorced but not before Jon had some sort of epiphany. He tried to stop the filming, apparently realizing photos of his kids’ toilet training, or being left in the back of the family’s van while the mother shopped for furniture, might not be a great idea. He ultimately relented and after the ink was dry on the divorce papers, allowed Kate and kids to go back to filming the mundane and minutia of their everyday lives.
The thing that irks Good Enough Mother is the circus animal / freak show feel that these cases have. These kids are performing for the viewing benefit of others and the financial benefit of their parents. That’s just gross.
In the Gosselins case, they have to put 15 % of the gross proceeds from the show into a trust for the kids. But that trust wasn’t established until November, after public hearings into child labor laws in Pennsylvania. In other words, the Gosselins have been making money off their kids, and could have potentially nothing for saved for them, even though they worked for it. Just plain wrong.
How much say do any of these kids, Abby, Falcon, The Gosselin 8 have in whether they want to take part in any of this? See this is not like TV when I was growing up where something aired once and if you were lucky you caught the rerun during the summer. Oh no, this is the era of YouTube and everything is there, to be watched, downloaded, shared multiple times. Imagine what their peers are going to say when the sextuplets get to 7th grade and their classmates have watched time and again, Colin’s dad pulling poop from his butt! . Or that Falcon Heene’s dad put him up to this ridiculous stunt. How utterly horrifying for them! So if they go to their folks and say they just don’t want to do it anymore, will they listen? If they don’t, what choice do the kids have? It has a very trained-bear feel to me.
And then there’s the issue of copycats. You can’t tell me that Lawrence Sunderland hadn’t heard of Richard Heene, the family was in the news for days on end! Could Heene’s actions have planted a seed in Sunderland? Perhaps.
But the Gosselins, the Heene and now the Sunderland examples should make all of us stop and wonder how high is too high a price. Should kids be working for their parents for more than allowance money? And who’s going to be there for them when they say they’ve had enough?