When it comes to other people’s parenting decisions, everyone has an opinion. That is clearly the case with Elana and David Barnes, a Connecticut couple drawing major criticism for allowing their 5-year-old daughter, Anaia, to swim with sharks during a snorkeling trip in the Bahamas. The proud parents captured the adventure on film and posted it to YouTube. Sure enough, the nine-minute video went viral and faster than you can say “Jaws,” the Barnes’ were accused of being irresponsible, horrendous, neglectful (and on and on).
According to the video description, the sharks are of the reef, lemon and nurse variety – meaning they’re low on the aggression scale. In fact, experts agree they’re mostly harmless to humans (mostly being the operative word here). Is there a risk? Of course. But no more than, say, getting on an airplane or driving on the highway (never mind camping among black bears – a common summertime activity). That said, it’s an unnecessary risk, which is what most people are taking issue with.
“Life is too short to be boring,” Elana said on Good Morning America. (She appeared on the show pretty much to defend her decision after the major backlash.) “There’s just always risk assessments in life every day,” added her husband David. “I’m more concerned that they don’t put seat belts in school buses.”
Both Elana and David said they researched the risks ahead of time and decided it was worth it to nurture an adventurous spirit in their daughter. Of course, the comment alone angered countless people, many of them arguing that it’s job as parents to protect our kids from reckless behavior, not encourage it. Others, however, are commending the couple for exposing their daughter to something fun and harmless that will no doubt instill confidence in this little girl.
I personally wouldn’t let my own children swim with sharks, no matter how controlled the environment. Then again, I’m somewhat neurotic. (I actually have to go out of my way not to hover at the playground.) That said, I can list of at least a handful of friends who would most certainly allow it – we’re talking couples with their own sense of adventure who are by all means loving, caring and competent parents. Would I judge them for making the same decision as Elana and David Barnes? Absolutely not. Which is why I say we cut the Barnes some slack here.
What do you think? Were they acting idiotic? Or should we be praising them for nurturing a sense of adventure in their child?