Everywhere you look within the past week you've seen something having to do with Harambe the gorilla. About how he was shot and killed when a toddler fell into his enclosure. It was a tragic event, no doubt, and I'm positive it was not the route the zoo wanted to take. But a little boy's life was in danger, and regardless of whether Harambe was intending to harm the child or not, action had to be taken.
And as a result of these stories, the mother has been vilified. She has been put through the ringer and hung out to dry. She has been called an idiot, negligent, a moron, and people have even said she should be drug out into the street and shot.
Back the truck up a second here.
Now I have seen negligent parenting. I work in retail, I see it every day. I've seen parents let their kids wander the toy aisles while they're off looking for matching seat cushions for their overpriced patio sets. These kids aren't tweens, either. I'm talking anywhere from 4-10 years of age, and they just let them go. What's even more upsetting is when they stand at the end of the department and just holler for the kids like they're puppies. I can say something to the parents about not leaving their children unattended, and I have, but I can't call them out on their clearly bad parenting. The whole situation is infuriating because I really just want to slap them upside the head. I have also seen parents so consumed in their phones that they don't realize their little one has wandered ahead. That's not negligence so much as sheer ignorance but again, I can't call them out on that. And that very well could have been the case in Cincinnati. The parents could have been distracted by cell phones, conversation, or something and just not been paying attention while their little guy ventured off. But then again...
Those of us who are parents know better, especially those of us who are ausome parents. I'm not saying this was a spectrum kid. I'm just saying that as autism parents, we are a little more in tune with a child's ability to be easily distracted. Anyway. We know that even the most well behaved child can have an off day. We know that even when we have drilled into the kiddos' heads that they must stay with mom and dad and always hold hands, that little minds are easily distracted. Within the past year, we took Sweet Pea and Monkey to Dave and Buster's. Yeah, yeah, I know. Completely different from taking them to a zoo, but hear me out. We had gone over the social story time and time again about how staying with Mommy and Daddy keeps them safe and they should never walk away. So we're in the arcade and I had Sweet Pea with one hand and Monkey with the other. Monkey dropped Mr. Bear. I told Sweet Pea to stay put so I could get Mr.Bear. In the time it took me to retrieve the errant toy at my feet and hand it back to Monkey, less than 10 seconds, she had wandered out of my sight. I started to panic before I spotted her walking over to Daddy, who was 20 feet away at another machine. This was fortunately a crisis averted, but you see what I'm getting at here. It only takes a second for a kid to take off. You can be the most hyper vigilant helicopter parent on the face of the planet, but even you have to sneeze, cough, blink, yawn or even help another child. It is physically impossible for you to be everywhere and looking everywhere at once.
The bottom line is this. This is a sad situation for all involved. The parents, the child, and the zoo for having to take out a member of an endangered species. But placing blame helps absolutely no one. Maybe it was negligent parenting. Maybe it wasn't. We don't know because we weren't there. I know I don't want to be unfairly judged, and I can't imagine you would want to be, either. So ease up a bit.