Aside from the tragic loss of an endangered species, what I’m most upset with about this whole situation is how quickly people are to jump on the ‘blame the mother’ bandwagon. Anyone who demonizes the the boy’s mother clearly does not remember what it’s like to constantly be ‘on’ around a small child. They can slip away even when you’re watching them, especially in a crowd. Tons of parents can tell you a story about a time when sheer dumb luck was all that kept their child alive – here’s one from me. There but for the grace of God go we.
Something I’m learning now that Momo’s getting a little older is that part of this phase of parenthood is about slowly entrusting your child with more responsibility and less supervision. You teach them certain things – stay on the sidewalk, don’t talk to strangers, don’t pee here – but then you have to let them act on what they’re learning. For me, “my 4-year-old will probably not climb the fence into the gorilla pit, which probably has all sorts of safeguards to prevent her from doing that anyway,” is a perfectly reasonable assumption, especially when you’re also juggling the same calculations for other kids. So you take your eyes off the 4-year-old to fill a bottle, or answer a text, or look at the zoo map, and… whoops. But people – not just parents, but all people – make these sorts of assumptions of safety every day, and if you think you don’t, I’m going to hand you a mirror and show you a liar.
Believing that you will never make a fatal mistake because you’re a good parent is how children get hurt. It’s how children die forgotten in overheated cars. It’s how toddlers kill people with unattended guns. It’s how children die of accidental drug overdoses. Virtually no one thinks they are a bad parent, but these things happen all the time. How do you know you won’t make a mistake sometime? You’d need to be vigilant every day.
Bad luck only needs ten seconds.