The Politically Incorrect Mom


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

It's 11:00...Do You Know Where Your Children Are?

When I was a little girl, pre-kindergarten era, my mother used to allow me to stay up late with her sometimes and wait up for my dad when he worked the second shift. I remember well the newscaster saying, “It’s 11:00, do you know where your children are?”

Somewhere along the way over the past 30+ years, it stopped being a parent’s responsibility to know where their children are in the middle of the night. Even those who seem to be fine, respectable parents are finding themselves in tragic situations asking, “how could this have happened to us”, yet nobody seems to be reminding them that they, and only they, are responsible for their children’s well-being.

I’m not talking about child abductions or runaways or even drive-by shootings. I’m talking about 13, 14, 15 year old children being left on their own in the wee hours of the nighttime, only to prove to their parents that they are children... and children shouldn’t be left to their own devises in the middle of the night.

The other night on the O’reilly show, an attorney representing the family of a 15 year-old Irish girl who became drunk on a family vacation aboard a cruise ship and fell overboard to her death at 2:00 AM, described the cruise ship as “lawless palace” and is filing a lawsuit against the company because they…the cruise ship…NOT the parents allowed the 15 year old girl to get dangerously drunk. The attorney described the folks as a “fine Irish family” who were on a vacation with 20+ other members of their extended family. The attorney basically dodged questions about why the girl was unsupervised and given the opportunity in the first place.

As a parent, this concerns me. As a parent who has taken her teenaged children on cruise vacations, it’s appalling. This is disturbing on many levels, but at the very least, here are the issues:

The attorney stated that she was petitioning the government to force cruise ships to not allow children to purchase alcohol on the boats. Guess what? They already do that! In fact, if the parents had been paying attention when they boarded and read the literature mailed to them before they got on the ship, they would have known that you may even eliminate your child’s ability to charge ANYTHING on their shipboard card. Cruise ships don’t allow you to spend cash – you must charge everything to your stateroom. The cards are basically a credit card with no limit. You wouldn’t hand one of those to your 15 year old, so it’s beyond me why anyone would not at the very least limit what the child could purchase. My kids didn’t have a dime of credit on their cards. If they wanted to buy something, they had to ask me to use my card for the purchase. That allowed me to keep tabs on what they were buying and how much they were spending.

Bill O’reilly at least had the nerve to ask the attorney what this kid was doing out drinking at 2:00 am. The attorney responded by saying the kid was drinking at 11 pm – and had fallen overboard at 2 am. O’reilly backed down, so I’ll go ahead and ask the question…”ok, so she was drinking at 11 pm and fell overboard at 2 am – what the heck is the difference? Where the heck were her parents??” The parents had to be awakened to be informed that their child had fallen overboard while throwing up over the rail. What the heck were these people doing sleeping in their stateroom while their 15 year old daughter was out partying?? I may not be getting any nominations for mother of the year, but I can promise you that aside from the Disney Cruise we took, when my youngest daughter attended children’s programs where they sent me away with a pager in case she wanted to leave (because she wasn’t allowed to leave unless accompanied by a parent), my kids were by my side every waking moment while we were cruising and their butts were tucked into the bed next to mine when I went to sleep. It is absolutely preposterous to blame the cruise ship for these parents obvious neglect. 15 year old kids will find trouble if they are not supervised. PERIOD!

There is a reason why children are not allowed to make adult decisions until they are 18 years of age (and if it were up to me, the age would be raised to 21). Parents have an obligation to their children to pay attention to what they’re doing. When you take a family vacation, the idea is supposed to be to spend time with your family. If you want to ditch your kids, leave them at home with the grandparents. A cruise ship is no more a babysitter than an amusement park or a zoo. You just don’t leave your kids unattended for more than a short period of time when there are obvious dangers around you.

Another case came to my attention today regarding a 14 year old girl who was one of the victims of the shooting in Seattle last weekend. In this article

The youngsters father describes how he dropped her off at a bowling ally the night before so she could meet friends to go to a rave. A rave, people! She was dressed like a zombie, so he didn’t kiss her goodbye, for fear of smearing her make-up or getting it on himself. The article goes on to praise the girl for being such a good Samaritan, which I’m sure she was, and describes how the father learned of his daughter’s murder the next day. The article says, “By Saturday morning, her father was worried.”


So, let me get this straight. You drop your 14 year old kid off at a bowling ally, knowing she’s going to another location (one which you have not taken her to, so you can’t even go there to look for her if she fails to return). You’re aware that she is planning to attend a very grown-up event and then when she doesn’t come home, all night long, you begin to get worried in the morning.

Are these people out of their friggin’ minds?

What’s interesting about both these cases is that the media hasn’t said word one about the parent’s failure to properly supervise their children. Both these kids should have been in bed by 11 pm, not hanging out with people who are not looking out for their best interests, and left to stay out all night without so much as a “don’t you dare!” from their parents.

Go ahead. Tell me I’m naïve and over-protective. My kids are alive.


  • At 3:56 PM, April 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    While community values have drastically changed across North America since the 1950s, the law has changed where the position of responsibility lies, especially in terms of alcohol related liability. While I can only specify Canadian law, i believe that you would greatly benefit from reading "Alcohol Policies and Practices-A Legal Reference Manual."
    Firstly, to replace the contributory negligence of the child upon the sholders of the child is ridiculous under law. Under section 39 of the liquor license act, a person will be held liable for selling "liquor to or from a person whose condition is such that the consumption would apparently intoxicate him or increase his toxication so that he would be in danger of causing injury to his person..." The term "selling" is specified as any transaction in which the cost of alcohol is recovered directly or indirectly.
    Secondly, in terms of civil liability, providers of alcohol have a common law duty of care to prevent incidents leading to bodily harm of one of their intoxicated patrons, it is furthermore not a valid defence to argue that pub staff could not monitor how much patrons consume.
    Thirdly, as drinking aboard a cruis ship could be considered a potentially dangerous activity in and of itself, the case of Crocker v. Sundance Resorts (1988) clearly indicates the decision of the supreme court of Canada to enforce the notion that sponsors have a general duty of care to protect the intoxicated, which negates any idea of contributory negligence on the part of the child.
    Next, one must consider Occupiers Liability which imposes a general duty on occupiers to take reasonable steps to protect all entrants regardless of their legal status (for which four other provinces have similar legislation.)
    Furthermore, the case of Niblock v. Pacific National Exhibition and City of Vancouver (1981) shows that in cases where a festive atmosphere exists, such as aboard a cruise ship, occupiers must ensure that the premeses are safe for all people who may forseeably enter. This case regarded the height of safety barriers with the consideration of vendors of alcohol within the Exhibition grounds themselves.
    The Occupiers Liability Act also covers the laws regarding the age of majority. While the parents were wrong to allow their child access to alcohol, the child should have been asked for identification and refused the sale of alcohol; in Ireland a passport, SIN card or Driver's License is required. The death of their child was therefore due to various faults or misconceptions of the Cruiseline company if one reads the case in terms of Ontario Law.
    Lastly, it must also be recognised that parents of teens have a duty to help provide their children with coping mechanisms and strategies to help them use common sense and good values when their parents are not present. When this does not take place, the result is an extremely insecure child who demands a constant adult companion. It is a commonly recognised fact that that children do not suddenly wake up on the day of their 18th birthday and decide that they would like to drink. In addition to which, drinking is a large part of Irish culture. Across continental Europe, children can legally drink at age sixteen; in Ireland this is possible if they have purchased a meal. Therefore, the child was potentially only days away from the removal of this legal impediment to drinking. When one regards the behaviour of American Sorrorities and Fraternities in their first year of university, given their first opportunities to illegally drink, this case does not seem so unusual. If the American prohibition of alcohol until the age of 21 results in collective insanity at University, this perhaps shows that the law has been forced to change due to adults disregarding the idea of leading by example in order to teach their children how to make intelligent choices in their consumption of alcohol.
    Perhaps if Ireland and America taught moderation from a young age in the style of the French, Germans, Belgians etc then binge drinking would cease. The case must be seen to indicate faults in society which do not appear in countries with a more liberal attitude towards drinking.

    Fiona White

  • At 3:58 PM, April 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    edit: should read "shoulders of the Parents..." (not of the child)

  • At 9:07 PM, April 18, 2006, Blogger P.I. Mom said…

    First - I think it's worth mentioning that we are talking about United States law - NOT Canadian. Second - you missed the whole point. I am talking about PARENTAL responsibility. Only a liberal would think this was anything less than a couple of parents failing to do their job.

  • At 3:55 AM, April 19, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I note that you have not contradicted the fact that the cruise company had breached the law in terms of duty of care. Please let me know any points at which US Law contravenes British and Canadian law in terms of this case as I would be very interested to know.
    I am indeed liberal and while borders must be drawn in order that children know their limits, I recognise that rigorous policing of the behaviour of teens will result in their rebellion.
    Therefore, I would like to make the following points:
    Firstly, you have said that "it is absolutely preposterous to blame the cruise ship for these parents obvious neglect." It is not preposterous by law.
    Secondly, The fact that the child was attending a family gathering aboard the ship and would therefore have had many relations present at the party must be seen as a mitigating factor in the decision of the courts not to press for charges of neglect. Are you presuming to hold a more informed decision from the judge of the case?
    Thirdly, it not a fact that fifteen year olds will find trouble if they are unsupervised. My point has already been made that if one teaches one's children correctly then they will have a calm and sensible way of dealing with most situations. When children have not been helped to develop their identity and opinions, that is precisely when trouble arises.
    Lastly, it is my opinion that forcing a fifteen year old to sleep through a family party whilst on vacation would be considered cruel by most people; parents, family and children.
    Fiona White


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