Long ago in a far away distant memory, my son wandered away from me. We were at an amusement park and something had caught his eye. I only had my back turned a second as I was purchasing something for us.
The panic I felt in the ensuing mad rush to find my little guy was horrible. The worst case scenario ran through my head as I tried to stay calm and keep my wits about me.
I began frantically searching for him when I heard his voice above me. He had gotten on a ride by himself. A ride I had not wanted to go on. (I am horribly afraid of heights- and this ride resembled a ski lift.)
I ran over to the ride’s exit, both furious at him and relieved that the boogey man in my head had not snatched him from my life forever. He had probably only been missing a couple of minutes. We had a long talk about not ever walking away from the adult he was with. It was a lesson for both of us.
Thankfully, aside from my terror, no one was hurt. I beat myself up over it for a while though. I was sure this was one more sign of my poor abilities to be a mom.
I have to admit when I first read the story about the little boy falling into the gorilla enclosure, my first thought was “where was his mother?” I automatically jumped to conclusions about her apparent lack of parenting skills. I assumed I knew best.
I was wrong.
I was not there. It is easy for me to judge her. My son never fell into a moat with a gorilla.
I find it appalling that so many people are judging this mother and the zoo with so little information. We were not there! Can you imagine the horror of watching your entire world being drug around by a potentially dangerous animal?
What about the gorilla’s keepers? I assure you, they loved him. They cared for him. I doubt the decision to use lethal force was taken lightly. People who devote their life and career to the care of endangered animals would never harm one needlessly.
I think it is time for everyone to take a deep breath and relax a minute. Something horrible happened. Decisions were made. The boy is on the mend. It’s not our place (the public who was not in any way involved) to judge this mother.
My thoughts are with the zookeepers, the child, the witnesses, and the boy’s family. We need to remember parenting is hard. Unfortunate things happen even when we are on guard and vigilant to prevent them.
Hopefully we will use this situation as a learning tool and improve practices and systems to prevent this type of tragedy in the future. Until then, perhaps we should back off.