Freedom or foolishness?
Should a 13-year-old be allowed to sail solo around the world? I say no.
(Shawn Benjamin)
As a 13-year-old, I was desperate to become a singer. My parents accommodated my desire by arranging a singer teacher, driving me to lessons twice a week, and listening to endless Eisteddfod appearances and choir solos.

I am not a singer now.

As a teenager I did not know enough about life to decide what I wanted to do with mine. I do, however appreciate the effort my parents went to, in order to give me a real shot at the dream.

But are all dreams equally sensible for parents to support? For Dutch teen Laura Dekker the dream is bolder, braver and potentially life-threatening. She has a vision of becoming the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

Unlike me, she has the skills that are required to reach for this audacious possibility. Laura grew up on a yacht, having spent her first four years sailing around the world with her parents. She is a skilled sailor who could physically cope with the challenge.

But social workers, even liberal Dutch ones, argue that it is too dangerous and at her age she does not have the maturity to fully grasp the full implications. Laura has now been placed under the joint custody of her father and the state while authorities think about it a bit more.

To me, there’s not much more thinking to do. You are only 13, no, you can’t sail around the world on your own, nor can you go to a club where they serve alcohol.

There are many things that teens are physically capable of, that they would love to do, but that as parents we have a duty to prevent them from doing. To me, the physical, emotional  and mental hardships of two years sailing the world alone fall into this category.

But then, admittedly, I am the kind of mother who won’t let her son have a scooter even when authorities do think it’s okay. I’m a woes, I should probably not expect everyone else to be as over-protective.

If Laura was your daughter, would you let her go?

Read more by Adele Hamilton

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