In the middle of a humanitarian crisis—and, ahem, a pandemic—Texas Senator Ted Cruz took his daughters to Cancun "to be a good dad." Yeah, we're gonna have to talk about that.

By Melissa Mills
February 19, 2021
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An image of Ted Cruz in an airport.
Credit: Getty Images.

As Texas reels from a winter storm that left families without power, heat, and water, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz jetted off to a tropical family vacation at a luxury resort in Cancun, Mexico on Wednesday. To put things into perspective, 13 million Texans were told to boil their water to make it drinkable and thousands are still without electricity amid freezing temperatures—but their elected official was fleeing the country.

"With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends," Cruz said in a statement on Thursday afternoon after cutting the trip short and heading back to his home state. "Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon. My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas. We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm. My team and I will continue using all our resources to keep Texans informed and safe."

Unsurprisingly, backlash to the trip was swift. Leaked texts appeared to show a planned vacation with neighbors to the Ritz-Carlton in Cancun—and not a quick trip simply to drop his daughters off. Cruz even changed his tune after arriving home, calling the trip "a mistake" and admitting he had "second thoughts" about the whole thing the minute he boarded the plane to Mexico.

"On the one hand, all of us who are parents have a responsibility to take care of our kids, take care of our families," Cruz said. "But I also have a responsibility that I take very seriously of fighting for the state of Texas."

Now let's put aside politics and privilege—and the fact that a public servant left his state in the middle of an emergency—and talk about what it really means to be a "good" parent, as Cruz put it.

In the middle of a crisis—or, really, just in general—a good parent will do everything they can to keep their family safe. Yes, even if you're stuck at home without power or water and cannot afford a beach vacation, even if you're struggling, you're still a good parent as long as you're doing everything you can to keep your kids healthy, fed, and warm.

Amid a natural disaster, a good parent will teach their children the importance of helping other families in need by donating groceries or money and simply checking in on others—and not turning a blind eye or escaping reality for a bit.

Listen, we all want what's best for our kids. I'd love nothing more than take my toddler to Disney World and experience the pure joy on his face when he sees Mickey Mouse. Or sit on a beach with my husband with a fruity drink in hand watching the sunset. I can't blame Cruz for wanting to vacation with his family, but let's not forget that he's not just an ordinary citizen—he's a senator elected to serve residents of the state of Texas, people who were literally freezing to death and still need help. And, on top of everything else, we're still in a pandemic!

"If you can stay home, don't go out on the roads, don't risk the ice," Cruz said in an interview Monday. "Don't risk it. Keep your family safe, and just stay home and hug your kids." But that's not what he did. And that doesn't even take into account the precautions Americans were already supposed to be taking to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

During a global pandemic, where millions have been infected and over 400,000 people have died in the U.S. alone, a good parent would enforce mask-wearing, social distancing, and heed travel recommendations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging people to "delay travel and stay home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19" and has called for families to limit gathering with anyone outside of their household.

After nearly one year of living in this new normal, where families have been forced to stay home and work coincides with child care, school, and, well, everything else, a good parent does what they need to get through the day. That could mean ordering takeout instead of cooking, allowing kids to take a real snow day instead of learning remotely, or even relying on screen time more than usual. That doesn't mean, however, that parents should give in to every want or whim of their kids. Part of raising healthy children is setting boundaries, adhering to advice that was put in place to keep everyone safe, and explaining the importance of making sacrifices, especially during an emergency.

And let's just be totally honest here: In the face of an angry response from the public and calls to resign, a good parent wouldn't throw his kids under the bus. A good person would take the blame for a bad idea, use the situation as a teaching moment, and then get to work to make things right.