A thirteen-year-old Dutch girl wants to take the next two years off from school so she can sail around the world. Alone.
Most parents would smile, nod and say absolutely not. According to the AP, Dekker’s parents are battling the Dutch Council for Child Protection for the right to allow their young teenager to make the trip.
If they succeed, she’ll become the youngest – by far – to make the solo trip. The current recordholder, an American seventeen-year-old just completed his round-the-world sail, but Zac Sunderland expected to lose the record soon to an English teen who is just a few months younger. Dekker, at thirteen, would have a four-year advantage over her elders for the title.
Whether she’ll actually be allowed to do it or not is the big question. The idea of allowing a child to drop out of school for two years and “teach herself” is just a small worry for the Dutch government. Her safety, obviously, is the biggest concern.
Like Sunderland’s parents, Dekker’s are bearing a lot of criticism over the plans. The Sunderlands were vindicated when their son returned safe and sound to California in June.
Both kids were raised in sailing families – Dekker was born during an around-the-world sailing trip and spent her first four years on the seas. But that four-year age gap is hard to ignore – it brings with it added experience, added wisdom, not to mention a larger body more adept at handling a craft during a rough sea.
And what of her ports of call? Where in the world is a thirteen-year-old going to be able rent a room, negotiate with harbor masters? Even if she’s mature enough and you can set aside the dangers of life in a foreign city where she doesn’t know the language, she won’t be old enough in a legal sense to do much on her own.
Our own Amy Kuras recently noted a passing concern of what her daughter will face as a seventeen-year-old going off to college, and I felt her pain as I WAS a seventeen year old who entered college and found limitations (few, but still, limitations) because of my age. Ideally, parents are supposed to think about and anticipate those limitations. Recognizing them does not mean failing to allow your child to think big – it means being the parent.
Would you let your child do this?