It’s Getting Tough to be a Kid

A pair of confessions to begin. I don’t have children. Like them fine, just don’t have any of my own. Also, I’ve never seen a second of any episode of “Jon & Kate Plus 8” on TLC (The “Learning” Channel? Yeah, right). However, between Jon, Kate and Balloon Boy’s parents, I’m starting to think there should be training and licensing before some folks are allowed to reproduce.

Run away kids!

Run away kids!

It’s a shame that the Gosselin’s marriage has fallen apart. Those things are always painful. Probably more if children are involved. However, the mere fact that these two adults were making their living by parading their children on reality television seems shameful. If you want to make a fool of yourself, have at it – that’s what TV is for. And even though having 6 kids at once is pretty amazing, it shouldn’t be fodder for weekly entertainment. I don’t care what led to the break up, but all of the money earned from the program needs to go into trust for those children and both of those “adults” need to get jobs!

Bad Dad!

Bad Dad!

If there’s a bad thing connected to the temporary success of the Gosselin’s program, it’s that other knuckleheads start thinking that their wacky lives should have a showcase too. That may be the case with Richard Heene, the father of “Balloon Boy” (how would you like to go through life with that nickname?)

"Would you like to fly in my beautiful balloon?"

"Would you like to fly in my beautiful balloon?"

When you work in the TV business, there are always TVs around, so when the giant Jiffy Pop balloon was streaking across Colorado last week, we were watching with interest at the office. Of course, having done my time in the cable news business, I was not at all surprised at the breathlessness of the coverage provided by CNN, Fox News & MSNBC. The middle of most days are the slowest part of the news cycle, so if something breaks, you’ve got to know that everybody’s jumping in with both feet.

An errant balloon is only so interesting. Add a 6-year-old child swept away from his frantic parents, with nothing between him and certain doom but some hot air and empty sky – that’s breaking news. And you might have noticed that  when they’re not covering anything political, the cable nets become interchangable.

Crashing Down

Crashing Down

Okay, the balloon comes down. A nation breathes a collective sigh of relief. Wait a tic, what do you mean there’s no kid in there? Did he fall out? Oh, he’s at the house – well, at least he’s okay. So of course, there’s the orgy of morning show interviews – they live for the aftermath interviews – as does Larry King (who amazingly, is still alive and on TV). Between throwing up, balloon boy drops a lead balloon when asked why he was hiding.  “You guys said we were doing it for the show…” and it turns out that dad was in talks with someone about a reality show.

Now it seems that the local law (and the feds) have had the wool lifted from their eyes and are convinced that a game was being run and both mom and dad could face a spate of charges.

Family of the Year?

Family of the Year?

Good. I’m all for that after hearing they drag the kids along while they go storm chasing (a dodgy proposition in the first place). If you want to endanger yourself, make your move. But leave the kids at home. At a minimum, agencies that have to launch incredibly involved search and rescue missions should charge the costs back to the people responsible for the messes in the first place (as many are actually doing). Interestingly enough, dad called the FAA first, then one of the TV stations, then the police (the sheriff said that made sense, since the TV station helicopter could go after the balloon right away – Hey sheriff – cops got choppers too!!!).

The one thing the sheriff said that I agree with was when he noted that Heene was no “nutty professor…” Nutty yes, but certainly not any kind of professor.

Love your kids, pamper them, spoil them, squeeze them, have big dreams for them… but folks, don’t take advantage of them because you’ve got some unfulfilled dream for yourself. There’s enough involved in growing up. Don’t make your failings their problems.

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About Doug Johnson

I spent 25 years in the news business, working in print, radio and television. After a steady rise to the middle, I made the leap to the private sector, which chewed and then tried spitting me out after 2 years. I zigged (instead of zagging) into a position in television production.
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One Response to It’s Getting Tough to be a Kid

  1. Pam C. Roberson says:

    It amazes me that people have to qualify to adopt a pet, but can breed at will and with no training required. Parenting classes ought to be mandated just like readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic.

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