Youngest Person in Space Has the Most Lenient Parents Ever

Jeanne Sager
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Virgin Galactic SpaceTell me this doesn't give you the heebie jeebies. A Canadian teenager is about to become the youngest person in space. Space! I know parents who won't fly on the same airplane, lest their little pumpkin be left an orphan. And a couple in Canada is about to let their little darling fly off into the great beyond courtesy of Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic space travel service.

OK. I have to sit down and take a little breath now. It's not that I'm faulting these parents (who haven't been identified). Really. Their kid has been signed up since he was 16 years old, but by the time SpaceShipTwo blasts off (with Stephen Hawking and Russell Brand on board -- that alone could make for an interesting ride) he'll be past Branson's sensible cut off of 18, making him an adult. At which point, ahem, his parents have absolutely no control.

But the fact is, he was 16 when he signed up. So Mom and Dad had a big ol' say in the matter. That's a parenting issue right there if I've ever heard of one.

So what do you say? Space travel isn't what it used to be. Thanks to Branson, it's not relegated to astronauts but regular folks. OK, to insanely rich folks. But, you know, not just people who have gone through intensive training and been approved by NASA anymore.

And yet, it is still life's next big adventure. Space. The next frontier. Most of us will send our kids off to college with a Kindle. A laptop. Maybe a car? If they're going across the country, we have to put them on a plane, while we chew our fingernails. I'm no helicopter parent, but I'm still a parent. I do get nervous when the kidlet climbs to the way tippy top of the 7-foot-tall climbing apparatus at the park . . . and then starts bouncing. It's natural to be scared of your kids taking risks.

But if you have that kind of dough. Well, what do you say? Your kid could go travel Europe. Which is just as unsafe, if you think about? What's getting mugged at knifepoint on the Paris metro versus a trip into space? Over-indulgent they may be -- I can think of a half a million better things to do with $200,000 -- but it doesn't get more "once-in-a-lifetime" than space travel, now, does it? And we want to let our kids know that they should take those kinds of chances, especially when they're "getting on" in their teen years. That "once-in-a-lifetime" means something.

I just sat through two graduation ceremonies this weekend, full of phrases like "grab life by the horns" and "take the road less traveled." It's true most parents couldn't afford to send their kid into space, but if we all said "nah, you can't try that because it's dangerous," would our kids ever do anything worthwhile? These parents may be over-indulgent, but they're also encouraging their kid to grow.

What do you think of the youngest kid in space? Are his parents nuts or right on track?

 

Image via Bernt Rostad/Flickr

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