Tuned In

"Balloon Boy," Family Had TV Connection

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As I write this, we don’t know if the story of the Mylar balloon that went sailing over Colorado, attracting wall-to-wall TV news coverage, was tragic or not. We don’t know if it was real or a hoax, if six-year-old Falcon Heene was ever in the balloon. But it is undoubtedly a strange story. And, it turns out, the Heene family has been in the media spotlight not long ago.

In a season-five episode of ABC’s Wife Swap, the Heene family, described as a thrill seeking family of stormchasers (the father hosts a series of “Psyience Detectives” videos), swapped parenting duties with a pair of safety-fixated parents.

In a video posted in March, around when the Wife Swap episode aired, the Heene family posted a music video about “pussification” — “The modern day teachings of human beings living a superficial lifestyle of consumerism, obesity and over protectiveness for themselves and their children”:

The philosophy behind Wife Swap, of course, has always been to dramatize extreme differences in parenting philosophies that push the buttons of viewers at home. The Heene’s take, clearly, was that parents today over-cosset and coddle their kids. That’s what Wife Swap is for: it’s a show about conflict and judgment made into entertainment. And however this story turns out, the temptation is going to be great to judge the Heenes as parents.

Right now, that’s something I just don’t have the stomach to do, with the fate of a little boy uncertain. As the father of two boys—as a person, simply—I’m hoping the family’s second brush with notoriety doesn’t have a horrible ending.

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