Six months and four days into his life, Rich Casey Humpherys water-skiied. The stunt made him a world record holder, but it made his parents the targets of an internet backlash.
To be clear, there are lots of reasons why strapping an infant to water skis (or, in this case, a forked board) is a terrible idea. If the foot straps failed or Rich had let go of the hand bar, he could have been dragged by the boat. A piece of debris or the wake from another boat could have come along suddenly and knocked him into the side of the boat, which was just a few feet away. Any number of awful scenarios could have played out. Regardless of the outcome, it was a very risky stunt.
Casey and Mindi Humpherys deserve the flack their getting not just because they put their kid in danger, but because they selfishly put their kid in danger in pursuit of a meaningless record and viral fame. It’s literally impossible for a six-month-old to articulate a desire to water ski or to consent to it. And even if it was it would be meaningless, as an infant doesn’t have the mental capacity to understand the risks of such an activity.
It’s up to parents to understand the situation and make the right decision, something that the Humpheryses, who sure look like aspiring influencers, failed to do. They put their own ambitions over the interests of their child, an action that deserves to be discouraged, not celebrated.
Some commenters went after the parents for being so cavalier with their son’s well-being. “Child abuse,” one put it simply. Another wrote that it was OK to be “an adventurous family but this just isn’t okay. So many things could have gone wrong. [It’s] not cute just for likes.”
Of course, there were also commenters who took the parents’ side. Common arguments were that he looked happy so it couldn’t have been that bad despite the fact that, again, he’s half a year old and doesn’t know what’s happening. His brain is literally still growing, so fast in fact that his skull is still in multiple pieces.
Others groused about waterskiing being safer than screen time though only one carries a risk of severe injury. A related argument is that not putting Rich on a waterboard would have been coddling him, a cultural argument that echoes those made by advocates of corporal punishment.
Finally, there were those who said that because Rich wasn’t horrifically maimed (at least physically) by the incident then it was the right move. Imagine saying that about a parent who dropped their toddler off the side of a building into a net or let a five-year-old play with a loaded gun. Even if these kids escape injury, putting them in those situations in the first place is wrong, and each would be clear-cut evidence that whoever was responsible for the kid wasn’t responsible at all.