I haven’t read a single news report about the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla incident, in which a four-year-old boy climbed a barricade and fell into the zoo’s gorilla enclosure over Memorial Day weekend. I also haven’t watched the video of the event, and I refuse to (just the thought of it is enough to give me nightmares). So I don’t know who’s right or who’s wrong, if the mother really is to blame, or if this was a freak accident that could have happened to anyone of us. But I’ve read plenty of opinions about this event on Facebook, and I’ve got one thing to say about it: enough with the mom shaming, already!
In some ways, I get it. An innocent animal died, and people want someone to blame. And the mom is an easy person at whom to point fingers. But (and keep in mind that I don’t know all the details of what happened with this event), when I take a step back and think about what kids, especially toddlers, are like in general, I can’t help but feel sorry for this mom. After all, don’t you think she feels absolutely terrible about what happened, and what could have happened, to her baby boy? Even if she wasn’t keeping an eye on him, kids are unpredictable and they misbehave. And sometimes, bad things happen because of it.
And let’s face it. This gorilla incident isn’t the only mom shaming event to take place on social media. You hardly have to scroll through your newsfeed these days to see a story of a parent being blamed for their child’s bad and dangerous behavior. Are some of these parents truly at fault for what went wrong? Yes. Are some of these events terrible accidents that could have been prevented if kids were being watched just a little more closely? You bet. Do exhausted parents sometimes make mistakes? You know it. But are some of these things just the result of living with unpredictable, curious, and ornery children? Absolutely!
I can’t tell you how many times I have stressed to my children that they need to hold a grownup’s hand when crossing the street and look both ways for cars. But just today as we were walking down our driveway to cross the street to get the mail, my 2-year-old darted out in front of me and ran to the other side of the street. If he had been hit by a car, would it have been my fault? You better believe there would be people saying that it was.
Last March I flew across country alone with my 2-year-old and 4-year-old boys. As we were exiting the plane, my 4-year-old went first, my 2-year-old went next and I was in the back of the line so I could keep my eye on both of them. As I was herding my 2-year-old off the plane, my 4-year-old, who was already on the jet bridge at this point, turned the wheel to the device that attaches the jet bridge to the plane, almost separating it. A woman who worked for the airline and was standing about 2 feet away from my child started screaming. “He can’t do that!” she yelled. I could tell by the look on her face that she felt like I wasn’t minding my child, but really, what could I have done to prevent this from happening in the first place? Don’t you think I’ve already told my child countless times to keep his hands off of things that don’t belong to him?
I’m sure in the coming weeks, we’ll learn more information about what really happened at the Cincinnati Zoo and get a clearer picture of who, if anyone, is at fault. But in the meantime, can we all just start being a little bit nicer to one another? When our kids behave badly, can we give each other the benefit of the doubt? Because regardless of who is at fault when our kids behave badly and put themselves in dangerous situations, you always have a mom who is thanking her lucky stars that something worse didn’t happen (and most likely beating herself up inside for whatever happened, too).