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My son is in fourth grade, and twice this year I have forgotten to pick him up from school on time.

When my daughter was an infant, I left her alone in front of our house for a spell. When I returned, she was chewing on something: A petrified worm.

I’ve cursed in front of my kids—repeatedly. I’ve cursed at my kids—twice. I’ve let my kids roam malls without me. I’ve left them alone in the toy section of Target. I once used the bathroom as my kids were in the shallow end of a swimming pool.

The list of my parental transgressions goes on …

And on …

And on.

I bring this up not in the name of self-mutilation, but in the name of defending Michelle Gregg, the mother of the 4-year-old boy who plunged into the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo last week. If you scan the Internet, you’ll find people thrashing Gregg’s reputation as a mother, as a caretaker, as a human. The attacks have been racial, mental, physical. She has been deemed an unworthy mother; an incompetent mother; an awful mother. When the zoo rightly shot and killed Harambe, Gregg was blamed.

Repeatedly.

So here’s my question for parents: Have you ever visited a zoo with your children? Did you have your eyes on them 100 percent of the time? Not 90 percent; not 95 percent. One hundred percent. When you were gazing at the breathtaking giraffe? When you were peeking through the glass to spot the leopard? When you walked into the monkey cave? Were your eyes on your child 100 percent of the time?

Equally important, were you ever concerned about your children sneaking into an exhibit? Did you ever think, “Man, it sure would be easy for Little Jimbo to creep toward the lions?”

It’s easy to judge others. That’s what we do, 2016 style. We mock, brutalize, publicly shame. (Hell, right now there’s an online petition, with more than 440,000 supporters, that reads (in part): “We the undersigned want the parents to be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life. We the undersigned feel the child’s safety is paramount in this situation. We believe that this negligence may be reflective of the child’s home situation. We the undersigned actively encourage an investigation of the child’s home environment in the interests of protecting the child and his siblings from further incidents of parental negligence that may result in serious bodily harm or even death.”)

What we fail to do, far too often, is place ourselves in the positions of others.

Could that have been your kid sneaking into the gorilla pen?

Hard to say from afar.

Could that have been mine?

Absolutely.

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2 Comments
  • dgw

    Ugh. Just ugh. This whole story is sad. Accidents happen, and kids disappear in the blink of an eye. The zookeepers acted the only way they could, and my feelings for the mother are just relief that she got her son back.

    Unfortunately, there are more and more disenfranchised people out there who feel powerful while sitting behind a keyboard.

    June 1, 2016at5:18 pm Reply
  • Paul C

    I can recall at least 3 times years ago when one of my toddler, or Pre-K kids disappeared in a flash when I was a bit distracted. Panic doesn’t begin to describe my emotional state. It shouldn’t happen, but it does; and it happens to most parents. Criticizing the mother for her inadvertent role in this all-around unfortunate incident is a prime example of the faux expertise on all aspects of human behavior possessed by the censorious faceless multitudes in the twitterverse, who remind me of nothing so much as the brutal mob watching executions in the film versions of “A Tale of Two Cities.”

    What I find even more bizarre, is the legions of these faceless harpies who claim that, had they been there, and had it been their child, they would have sacrificed themselves for their child. No they wouldn’t. I’m not saying some parents wouldn’t, or haven’t, but not most. It’s amazing how brave many people are, safely ensconced at their keyboards. People always think they would “do the right thing” until they’re actually faced with a real-life situation that would allow them to act out their fantasy.

    June 1, 2016at11:38 pm Reply
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