A Gorilla Incident for all Parents

Since I bet you are just DYING for another two cents on the gorilla and the 4 year-old public lynching du jour, let me give you mine!

Once when Micah was in the scooting-around-the house-and-exploring stage, he discovered the treasure trove of the tupperware cupboard. Any parent of a small toddler can attest to the magic of the free entertainment that is a tupperware cupboard. There’s stacking and filling and sliding and tossing, and it’s all safe and no fuss. So as he delighted in plastic containers, I sent an overdue text to a friend. I was looking down at that screen for two minutes tops with Micah playing happily in my periphery. However, when I glanced up, to my horror, he was covered in blood! In fact, he was playing in fascination with his own blood. It covered his hands and parts of his face. Among the tupperware, he had discovered a blade for a blender. Swooping him up, I tried not to panic. He wasn’t crying so that was a good sign. But still it looked like a blood bath!

I dumped him in the bathroom sink and quickly rinsed his hands and face. There were a couple small cuts on his hands that were producing a lot of blood, but thankfully they weren’t deep and appeared not to be painful. The bleeding stopped quickly. Needless to say, I felt terrible. I felt like the worst mother. But there was another, larger part of me that forgave myself, that knows even the best parent can’t possibly always be watching. You’d drive yourself crazy and never get anything done and, anyway, once you have a second or a third child, what then? Does only one get watched? It’s true what they say, it only takes a second. Or 30. But what parent doesn’t take their eyes off their kid for 30 seconds? If you say you don’t, you’re either a liar or your selfless devotion may actually be harmful. I think that’s why the story of Harambe the gorilla and the outrage it’s provoking is striking such a chord with parents. If you don’t think an accident on this level could happen to you, then congratulations, you are the world’s first perfect parent.

Take a look at how it happened:

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These days, I’m fairly confident Micah wouldn’t scale a 3-foot wall to go play with a gorilla, but not because I wouldn’t take my eyes off him for long enough for him to do it. He just happens to be kind of a wuss (which as a mom, I LOVE). But if his braver friends were doing it, he might follow suit.

But just like many parents and kids, we have experienced that brief panicked feeling of being separated from each other with the potential for danger. He was about two years old and I had a few items to pick up at a drug store. Being heavily pregnant, I opted to hold his hand rather than wear him. But I had to let go of his hand to take the items from my basket to set on the counter to check out. That was all it took. Seconds and he was out of my sight. I tried to suppress the rising panic, thinking he couldn’t have gotten far in a few seconds. Quickly scanning, I couldn’t see him anywhere. All I could see was the electronic door opening and closing to the busy parking lot feet away. With every passing 10 seconds, I felt more and more frantic. After a few minutes, I found him in an aisle, looking at the bright shades of nail polish bottles. But it was another lesson that it only takes a few seconds. Had he opted to run out into the parking lot, we easily could’ve experienced a different outcome.

Some parents, unfortunately, do experience the devastating consequences of common mishaps – in fact, the number 1 killer of children aged 1-4 in the United States is unintentional injury. It happens every day and can happen to the best of us.

So, some are saying what about a kid leash? Fearing another drug store incident, we did get a little monkey backpack with tail leash. Judgy onlookers be damned, I was keeping my kiddo safe. But you know what? That thing was a giant pain in the ass too. We tripped innocent bystanders with it and provoked unnecessary tantrums over it. Kid leashes have their purpose (airports, parking lots, crowded festivals for small toddlers). But I wouldn’t expect a parent of a 4 year-old in a zoo to use one. In fact, on my last visit to the Honolulu zoo, there was an entire class of 4 year-old preschoolers (I’d say 30 or so) with only about four chaperones. At the zoo I worry about getting separated in a crowd, about him falling off a play structure, I don’t worry about gorillas.

Also, if I hear one more complaint about this four year-old’s mother (who I read was strapping a baby into the stroller when it happened, though I’m skeptical of everything I’ve read about this shitshow) without mention of the father who was also there, I am going to lose it. Why do we expect our mothers to be completely without fault, but guys get giant backslaps for doing the most basic of parenting duties (changing a diaper, taking a kid for a walk, etc.)? Both parents made a misstep that day, and while they’re both getting a trial by Facebook, it seems one is getting the brunt of it. I’m not a fan of her praising the Lord when a gorilla had to die. But from all I understand, I do think her parenting that day isn’t too different than most of ours.

Finally, to everyone calling for this kid to be placed in foster care, please consider becoming a foster parent. Then you can judge negligence all you want.

 

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