Being a parent is often called the hardest job on Earth, and most parents try their best to make the right decisions for their kids’ happiness and well-being. However, sometimes a parent’s actions will be questioned by others and ignite discussion and controversy. These acts can range from the debatable, but ultimately harmless, to the downright incomprehensible—even criminal.
Directors of the Indian Medical Association were stunned when members of a local chapter contacted them to report that they had seen a video of a teenage boy performing surgery. Fifteen-year-old Dileepan Raj had allegedly performed a cesarean section on a pregnant 20-year-old relative under the guidance of his parents, who were both doctors, and owners of the Mathi Surgical and Maternity Hospital where the procedure had taken place.
After the boy’s father administered anesthesia to the patient, he recorded a video of Dileepan’s performance apparently hoping that his son would be featured in the Guinness Book of World Records. Thankfully, the baby was delivered without incident. Though the patient didn’t file a complaint, an inquiry was launched and Raj’s parents denied that their son had performed the surgery, saying he only assisted. The video was never recovered but both parents were charged with multiple counts, including attempted culpable homicide, endangering safety, and forgery.
9Sail Around The World Alone
No fewer than six people under 18 years old have sailed around the globe alone hoping to become the youngest person to do so. In 2010, Dutch teen Laura Dekker spent 17 months aboard her vessel Guppy setting out at age 14 and finishing her 50,000-kilometer (27,000 nautical mi) journey at 16. Her initial departure, planned for the year before, had been blocked by the Dutch government who questioned Dekker’s sailing ability, psychological state, and her parents’ judgment.
Other teens taking the journey have faced four-story waves, food poisoning, mechanical failures, and intense loneliness. Sixteen-year-old Abby Sunderland sparked a search-and-rescue effort by three countries when she set off her emergency beacon after her vessel’s mast snapped in stormy seas while attempting the journey her brother had completed at the same age. Though she was rescued, Sunderland’s parents were criticized for encouraging the trip, which was said to be poorly planned, putting her in the treacherous Southern Ocean in the winter. Guinness Book of World Records and the World Sailing Speed Record Council have stopped recognizing Youngest Solo Circumnavigator as a category in an effort to discourage such risky attempts by young people.
8Get A Tattoo
Most parents would never allow their child to get a tattoo, but not only does it happen more often that you’d think, many of them do the inking themselves even though they’re not licensed. A surprising number of parents have been arrested for tattooing their own young children, and many of them were surprised to hear that what they had done was against the law. Perhaps the most widely publicized incident was that involving Patty Jo Marsh and Jacob Bartels, who tattooed six of the seven children in their blended family using a device fashioned from a plastic pen and a guitar-string needle.
The children ranged in age from 10 to 17, with the youngest at seven years old being deemed “too young” for a tattoo. The biological mother of two of the younger children called police when the ink tattooed in a cross on one child’s hand didn’t wash off. Ten-year-old Gaguan’s mother was reported to police when someone at his school noticed he had been tattooed with a memorial to his brother Miguel who had been struck by a car and killed. His mother thought it a loving tribute and her decision to make. A father with less heartfelt motives ended up in prison for six years after he branded his seven-year-old son with the bulldog paw print insignia of the gang he belonged to.
7Fire An Uzi
In a shocking incident earlier in 2014, 39-year-old shooting range instructor Charles Vacca was killed when his student lost her grip on the Uzi submachine gun she was firing. The most shocking part? The shooter was only nine years old. The girl was on vacation with her family who went to the Bullets and Burgers shooting range outside Las Vegas. She was firing the weapon to check it off her “bucket list.” Many members of the public were outraged that a child was allowed to handle a weapon which fires five rounds in a third of a second and that kids as young as eight could do so legally at the range.
The incident was caught on video and shows the girl firing single shots before Vacca sets the gun to automatic mode. Law enforcement debated charging the parents in the death. However, it was determined that Vacca had sadly caused his own death through poor judgment and improper instruction.
In a previous horrific incident, another nine-year-old, Christopher Bizilj, was killed instantly by a micro Uzi while firing it at a gun show. Not only had his father allowed the boy to handle the gun, he had encouraged it even when the 15-year-old running the shooting gallery had warned the weapon would be too powerful for the child. The organizer of the gun show, former Police Chief Edward Fleury, and two other men were charged with involuntary manslaughter but were later acquitted.
6Work As An Air Traffic Controller
An air traffic controller at New York’s JFK Airport found himself in hot water after he brought his nine-year-old twins to work with him and let them relay instructions to pilots. Glenn Duffy allowed his son to speak to at least five pilots over the radio during the President’s Day holiday, telling them, “That’s what you get, guys, when the kids are out of school.” Duffy did the same thing the next day, this time allowing his daughter use the mic.
Far from seeming disturbed by the young voice in the tower, the pilots seemed to accept the occurrence with one even telling the boy he did an “awesome job.” When audio of the incident reached the powers that be, however, they were not so amused. They pointed out that, while children of controllers are permitted to observe in the tower, they are not allowed to participate and that the boy used improper lingo such as saying “Adios, amigo” to an Aeromexico pilot. Both the controller and his supervisor were suspended.
The parents of a 10-year-old girl were shocked to discover that their daughter had become severely intoxicated while at a friend’s house. When the girl didn’t return home from visiting her friend at the home of Paul White (who also goes by Christina), Chrystal Chamberlain and Jamie Taft sent their teenage daughter over to collect her. However, she found empty bottles, a bucket of vomit, and her sister slurring her words and unable to walk. The three fifth graders in the home were taken to the hospital where Chamberlain and Taft’s daughter’s blood alcohol level tested at 0.084—over the legal limit for adults to drive.
Paul “Christina” White denied purchasing vodka for her daughter and her two friends though it was reported that she even poured the shots and said that they must have gotten into the booze while she wasn’t looking. White was charged with procuring alcohol for minors and contributing to the delinquency of a minor and was forbidden to contact children under 18, including her own daughter, who was taken into the custody of Child Services.
4Climb A Mountain
At age 13, Jordan Romero became the youngest person in the world to climb Mount Everest. He was already an experienced climber who had conquered the Seven Summits—the highest peaks on each continent—including scaling Mount Kilimanjaro at the age of 10. Romero’s climb, which he made with his father, stepmother, and three Sherpas, sparked controversy and a debate about parental responsibility.
The youngest female to climb Everest was also 13. Malavath Purna of India was chosen for the feat as part of an initiative to help the underprivileged participate in sport. In 2014, an American father infuriated French authorities by taking his children, inexperienced climbers aged 9 and 11, up Mont Blanc. They were nearly swept off the 4,500-meter (15,000 ft) mountain and killed as several climbers had been previously. The father, who admitted to trying to set a world record, said he had no regrets while the furious mayor of the region stated that Mont Blanc was not an amusement park.
3Dress Like ‘Pretty Woman’
Viewers of TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras, which follows child pageants, were stunned to see three-year-old pageant contestant Paisley dressed as Julia Roberts’ prostitute character Vivian from the 1990 film Pretty Woman. The routine on the already controversial television show had Paisley strutting around the stage in an outfit consisting of a mini-skirt, bare midriff, thigh-high boots, and a blond wig. There was a public outcry that the show was sexualizing children, and it was condemned by the Parents Television Council.
The child’s mother Wendy, who made the outfit, said it was meant to be funny and that her daughter had no idea who she was even supposed to be. Even so, she said she would not have dressed Paisley in the outfit if she had known how controversial it would be. Another child on the same show had previously appeared—at age four—dressed as Dolly Parton, complete with fake C-cup breasts and padded buttocks, while other costumes worn by young girls on the show have included a showgirl and Madonna—including the infamous cone bra.
2Be A Designated Driver
Surveillance video at a gas station caught footage of a van jerkily pulling up to the pumps at 3:00 AM and a young driver emerging. That driver was a nine-year-old girl whose dad, Shawn Weimer, had consumed half a bottle of whiskey. After a bystander reported the incident to police, Weimer found himself in trouble when surveillance footage caught him bragging to the clerk inside the station that his young daughter had driven him to the station because he was too drunk.
Further investigation by authorities found that the girl had driven the van for 45 minutes on a country road in the middle of the night using a booster seat. Weimer pleaded guilty to second-degree child abuse and allowing an unlicensed minor to drive; he was sentenced to community service, substance abuse counseling, two years of probation, and lost custody of his daughter. The same month, a young boy crashed a minivan into a security barrier while on a family vacation after his parents decided they were too drunk to drive and put him behind the wheel instead. They were charged with child endangerment.
On a lighter note, nine-year-old Jayla Cooper married her best friend, seven-year-old Jose Griggs, at a touching ceremony in Texas. The reason for the unusual nuptials? Jayla was stricken with an aggressive form of leukemia and her last wish was to be a bride. Jayla and Jose had met at a Halloween party at the hospital where they were both being treated for cancer, though Jose had a more treatable form of the disease and had a positive prognosis.
Over 150 guests attended the wedding which was called a celebration of life and friendship. Jayla wore a white dress and a tiara and declared to take Jose as her friend forever before kissing him on the cheek and dancing together to the Jonas Brothers song “Love Bug.” Sadly, Jayla passed away two months after the wedding, but before she did she planned her own funeral where everyone wore pink and came together for a dinner party celebrating her life.
Caroline Coupe is a freelance writer and avid photographer with a passion for travel who is living the expat life in Copenhagen, Denmark. You can read about her adventures and check out her travel photography on Twitter at @lovelivetravel.