Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Thrown Into the Pit by the Monkey's Uncle

Today's victim will be the parents of the four year old who fell into the Gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati zoo.

Normally sane people have decided it is their job to cry for the heads of the parents for failing to properly safeguard their child.

"Let's judge this couple. It's justified! Everyone, feel free to be righteous, after all, your kid didn't fall into a Gorilla pit!  Feel free to throw poo at them.  Threaten to take away their child.   Lacerate them as bad parents.  Bankrupt them!"

If you read the com boxes, follow Facebook or engage in any sort of social media, you will find all of these responses.

How they know the parents failed to safeguard their child? The kid fell into the Gorilla pit! It is a neat and tidy argument.  Who could argue with the neglect which must be involved for a kid to fall into a Gorilla pit?  After all, no one else's kid ever fell into a Gorilla pit!

I will.

I will because I have woken to find my kids standing on top of three legged stools holding a broom in the air, trying to bring down a balloon that escaped, not noticing they are in danger of falling. Not noticing they could break the light fixture in the room where the balloon is, not noticing anything but the balloon.

I've had kids put syrup on their fingers and try to leap to the wall to stick like Spiderman. I've run after my son barefoot in the snow when he learned how to open the front lock and bolted for the street.

I have stopped my children from bringing the hairdryer near the sink, stopped them from falling into a pool when they couldn't swim, fished quarters out of their mouths and told them NOT to ferret something out of the garbage when they wanted more snack!

The point is, we watch kids all the time.  We warn kids all the time.  They still do stupid things.

Last week, I told a teen not to ride in the trunk of a mini-van.  It wasn't my kid but I didn't care. The kid found a better safer ride after I told him, "Don't do that."  But if I hadn't walked out to say good-bye, if I'd stayed inside and started cleaning up, I might have missed that moment to stop him, and it might have been tragic instead of bemusing about the nature of children, even older children.

They do not see the danger.  Their eyes have not been trained, their minds have not been trained to think things all the way through and in the course of any given day, there are countless dangers as a parent we see, that our kids do not.

It is the one we will one day miss that haunts us...what if one day...

As adults, as parents, it is our job to see the danger, to anticipate, and to be ever vigilant.  However, we live in a world of distraction.

I've seen countless scornful..."I bet they were on their phones."  It's possible.  How many of us have been distracted by our phones?

I've seen "he has  rap sheet."  He may.

It doesn't matter.

I don't have a rap sheet, but I've had that cold shiver down the spine when I don't know where one of mine is, and I know, I was reading or writing or making dinner and somehow lost track of time and need to find that one child and it is a frantic crazed I will never forgive myself kind of search that takes place.  We've all had that moment as parents at some point.

Because we're human.  We're fallible.  We get distracted.  We are distracted.   We might even be being distracted by something normal, like needing to go to the bathroom, trying to find the snack shop on the map, checking our wallet for money, but it only takes a moment. It only takes a second.  Maybe you tie your shoe.  Maybe you're swatting away a bee or thinking about where to go next or talking to your spouse about the Gorilla for a moment, or reading the display and the information.

Making this sad story (and it is sad to have to kill a beautiful rare creature), into a referendum on parents via armchair quarterbacking the parents' vigilance when we weren't there and don't know, is uncharitable to all concerned, including us.   It makes us into the mob picking up the stones. Anyone want to be identified with the Pharisees?

The child is safe.  A gorilla is dead.  Would these same people be calling for the zoo to close if the officials had allowed the child to be killed by not shooting the gorilla?  Even if the parents were negligent, should the child pay the price?

Because that's what you're saying if you think they shouldn't have shot the gorilla to protect the kid.

Sometimes in life, there are mistakes and there are not easy answers.   Sometimes, we can do everything right and still have a sad or incomplete happy ending.

The desire to feel smugly superior to this family does nothing for the zoo, the gorilla, the fate of gorillas, the child, the parents, their parenting skills, the family in general, or the improvement of society as a whole.

No one wants to have their lives defined by their worst moments, or by the brain lapse moments that can happen in an instant.   Seeing your four year old dragged around by a creature you cannot predict, control or stop, has to be one of the worst moments anyone could ever have as a parent, except perhaps now, when it seems the whole world is calling for your head.

This is not how a charitable society acts.  This is not how a people who are celebrating "The Year of Mercy" should respond.   So I'd beg everyone to stop trying to throw the parents into the pit and thumping their chests in superiority or outrage.   If you feel really strongly about the loss of the gorilla, give to the zoo to help them with conservation, or adopt a gorilla via the World Wild Life Fund.  

Is negligence a possibility? Absolutely, but we do not know.  Let those who saw, those who were there, and those most affected by the story, make the decisions about the consequences of this unfortunate series of events, and let the rest of us, thank God the child is unhurt, and remember, it only takes a moment for a kid to think, "I will climb up onto the counter to get a cup because I'm thirsty."  or "I will throw a baseball through the rip in the screen door." or "I will leave my wallet in the car." because all of these things happened just this weekend, and I was running after them and watching, reminding them, stopping them, saying, "This is not a good idea!" in so many words.

It's a good thing, we don't live near a Gorilla pit.


Maggie said...

Awesome Sherry, I am the Mom of a spirited and impulsive kid. I know I was not always as attentive as I should be. But the comments I have seen condemning the Mom Ibut not the DAD!?) are infuriating. No Compassion, jumping to conclusions about what happened. Eye witnesses are saying the Mom turned to attend to her other child and it was a terrible accident.

All these parents saying they would never take their eyes off their kids. We can all think that but that is not real life. It makes my blood boil every time I see something about it.

Now it is possible that knowing my child is part of the reason we did not go to place like the zoo much. (Consciously, it was too hot, too cold, too crowded, too expensive). But yeah keeping track of my kids at the ball field and the Mall was difficult enough at times. But I not going to say that is what this family should have done.

But if nothing else, my heart goes out the the parents who were traumatized first by their child's experience and second by the condemnation in the court of public opinion.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing how many perfect parents there are out there who are just so sure this would never have happened to them, because their kids are perfect too? Meanwhile, I'm pretty sure they keep building all these little emergency room places in our area, because they want to cash in on our family's potential business.
I've gotten separated from kids at the zoo twice. It happens when you have a large family, and other people (children and adults) decide to push in between you and your children, so they can get a better view. Going to the zoo with kids is being on high alert the entire time, and constantly recounting your kids.
Really, I'm just surprised none of my kids ever fell into a gorilla pit. It completely seems like something any of my boys would have tried.

Adam Andrews said...

As a father of 10 finding out what they did that I didn't know about is an eye-opener. How stupid I am for forgetting I was once a kid too. Kids do stupid things.

Trisha Niermeyer Potter said...

I am so glad you wrote this and shared it. Anyone who has children or has spent any length of time taking care of them knows how quickly kids manage to get themselves into trouble, some of which is very dangerous, even life-threatening. Kids do stupid things. Even when we're right there, we can't prevent all injuries from happening. I consider myself to be on the high-vigilance side of childcare providers, but I also know kids to be incredibly clever and sneaky in ways we don't consider. This isn't a moment like in the movie Speed where you shoot the hostage to defuse the situation. A four-year-old boy's life was in danger. Hopefully, any of adults there would have made the same decision to save the kid.

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