Now I’m sure you’ve all heard of the story about the gorilla and the child at the Cincinnati zoo. I, like I’m sure many of you, was deeply saddened to read about both the situation AND the unfortunate outcome. I am not here to debate what should or shouldn’t have been done. I’m just here to ask you a simple question. HAVE YOU EVER LOST SIGHT OF YOUR CHILD, EVEN FOR A MINUTE? If your answer is no, then good for you. I can vividly recall (which still causes my heart to beat rapidly), SEVERAL instances where my child was out of my sight and had me in extreme and utter panic trying to find him.
Once we were at a show at a local theater, and as everyone exited, my son got ahead of me and I lost him in the crowd. Spent the next 15 minutes panning the theater, talking to the attendants, and was about thirty seconds from calling the police when I spotted him – standing holding open the front door of theater for everyone as they were leaving. Jogging your memory yet?
No matter what kind of parent you are or what your belief system is, the truth is that at some point in your life, even for a split second, your child will get away from you. It happens and it DOES NOT make you a bad parent. Every single time a parent either has a child get out of their sight, or even a child that gets ahead of you in a large area or crowd, really awful things can happen. It’s true. Regardless of the outcome, what parents need in that moment is LOVE, SUPPORT, ENCOURAGEMENT, AND REASSURANCE from others. Managing children in a public area is one of the most anxiety producing jobs as a parent. You constantly walk the line between hyper vigilance and actually trying to relax and have fun with your children. IT IS NOT EASY!
At any given moment, every single one of us is parenting in the very best way we know how. Some parents have more tools than others, some have more skill, some are barely hanging on by a thread. It is not our job as fellow parents to sit back and judge. In fact, when we do, we demean and minimize the absolutely most challenging AND rewarding jobs in the world. We are also then vandalizing the very foundation that allows parents to find success in this whole parenting gig – the community of support. I wouldn’t be able to function as a parent if I thought that every time I made a huge mistake, I was going to have my entire support system chastising me and berating me, instead of lifting me up and telling me it would be ok.
When we beat parents down both publicly and privately, we are then feeding a culture where no parent feels comfortable to ask for help. Instead, we cultivate this idea that the only way to be a parent is to be infallible. Parents then feel alone, helpless, and never good enough. This is a downward spiral that only opens the door for more frequent situations like this one, because it is often (not always) when parents are feeling overwhelmed, scattered, and alone that things become more chaotic for them.
So before we go down this ugly path, let’s take a look in the mirror can think about our own mistakes and shortcomings as parents. Then consider for a moment what YOU would need if you found yourself in a similar situation as this mother. I’m guessing it would be some understanding, love, and reassurance. And maybe some help. Let’s pass it along.