Wednesday, June 1, 2016

the one about an accident and a gorilla

Disclaimer: This is my blog. I save my most heartfelt, from the gut thoughts for this space as opposed to Facebook because I feel like if you clicked on my link and came to my "house," then you knew what you were about to get yourself into. Just like when my friends come to my real home, they know it is going to look like a bomb exploded, a tornado spun through, and a hurricane just blew over all at once. I'm not sorry that they see it like that because they knocked on my door. Same thing applies here. 

If you have read my blog for a while now, you know that I write in phases. There are times when the posts keep coming and the inspiration is plenty, and there are times when it is radio silence because my mind can't download all the thoughts that are pumping through. And that's ok. You're here now, and I have my motivation to write, since it has been a couple of weeks.

It started with a gorilla.

Yeah, you're thinking another post about the gorilla in the zoo. (see my disclaimer above) If it bothers you to read something else on the topic, let that red X button be your friend.

Let me first lay something out.

I am not an animal lover. I respect animals. I admire animals of great beauty, size, and strength. I think animals are vital to our planet, and I would never wish the intentional harm of an animal that was otherwise doing absolutely nothing wrong. I don't have pets. I don't know if I will have pets. Pets to me are something else to clean up after and feed, and we are about to capacity over here with those needs.

In other words....I don't want to see anything bad happen to an animal, but I also don't kiss animals on the mouth.

Maybe this mindset sets me apart from the large majority of people weighing in on what happened at the Cincinnati Zoo over the weekend, but I am who I am.

And I am not a perfect parent.

Not even close.

I am actually a parent who is not very good about supervising her children 100% of the time.

There. I said it.

Call me crazy, but when my girls play with their cousins or friends their age, I tend to let them play. I let them go outside to our 3/4 fenced in back yard, and I let them play on our swing set while I fold laundry or prep dinner. Of course, I check in on them. I watch out the window. I listen for screams. But I don't watch them like a hawk 100% of the time.

I know the dangers of children in public places. I also know that there is one of me and three of them, and yes, there are times when my back might be turned for 2 seconds when I am loading child A into the car and children B and C are waiting their turns. I do my best to keep them safe, of course I do. But if I told you that I was able to load and unload a cart full of groceries and three children into their car seats without ever once turning my eyes, head, or back away from them, I would be a liar.

I have more stories. Some that belong to me and some that belong to my friends and family. And because this world is full of litigious spectators who think they are immune to mistakes and accidents, I am going to use the old elementary standby of "I know someone who" as I share these next moments of parenting failure.

I know someone who left their sleeping kids in the (not hot) car in the garage or driveway so that the children could get in a good nap.

I know someone who let their child walk him or herself all the way to the opposite side of the park to use the bathroom by him or herself.

I know someone who momentarily lost his or her child in a department store and had to be paged to the front to be reunited.

I know someone who thought his or her toddler was with the other parent in the backyard but was really being brought back up the front yard in the arms of a caring neighbor.

I know someone whose kids went missing at the beach for several excruciating minutes.

I know someone who didn't know he or she was being followed into the pool by his or her child and that child suddenly could no longer touch the bottom and went under.

I know someone who allowed his or her child, with a large group of other children, to run up ahead of the adults they were with at the zoo.

I honestly could go on and on. I have seen and done so many things that would be considered incompetent or risky that I lose count.

Am I proud of it? No.

Am I human? Hell yes, I am.

We lock our doors at night. We have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. They are buckled in appropriate car seats. I make them eat vegetables. They go to well-checks and get immunizations. They wear helmets when they ride their bikes or scooters. They wear life jackets on boats.

We play by the rules. We respect laws. We do our freaking best to make sure that our kids are safe, healthy, protected, and unharmed.

But we. are. human.

We turn our backs when we shouldn't. We get distracted by conversations or phone calls or thinking about what happened at work that day. We look away.

And when our most human moments don't result in an incident that becomes a national media frenzy, we are damn lucky.

In any one of those stories I shared above, I can see it as a headline of a newspaper. I can hear it as the lead in on the evening news.

When something scary happens, I use it as a learning experience. I remember how we got into that situation, and I do everything I can to make sure it never happens again. I hug my kids tighter, and I thank God that they were kept safe from harm.

And I thank God for His grace and forgiveness as I navigate these treacherous waters called parenthood.

My point in sharing all this is that I am in no position to weigh in on these parents who "allowed" their child to crawl into the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo which lead to the subsequent death of Harambe, the beautiful 17 year old endangered gorilla and the traumatization of the 4 year old child.

Maybe they told the kid, "Hey, I have an idea! How about you break into this exhibit and go play with that big guy down there. He looks cuddly!"

Maybe they told the kid, "No. You may not climb that gate. No. You may not get in that bush. No. You may not touch that fence."

Maybe, just as the dad was telling the mom, "Hey, we gotta move. This kid is getting really antsy over here," the child somehow found his way into the enclosure and into harm's way.

All of these are maybes because I wasn't there. And even if I was there, I still wouldn't be qualified to say what really happened. Not my kid. Not my parenting. Not my place.

What I can say is that we have a membership to the Indianapolis Zoo. We go several times a year. Many times, I go alone with my three girls, or I meet a friend or family member with their small children. We usually look like a band of gypsies, just roaming around singing and looking for food. I know that it is very difficult to keep an eye on all of them, but we do our best. We take head counts. We run the zone defense. We zig when they zig and we zag when they zag.

But we are no better than the parents of this child who got into that enclosure. We are no better.

I have seen moms sit and drink Starbucks and chat while their kids stick their fingers in the monkey cage.

I have seen dads on their phones checking sports scores while their kids smack the glass and agitate the tigers.

I am no better than those people, either.

And neither are you.

In my opinion, what happened at the Cincinnati Zoo was a tragic accident.

But these days, accidents no longer exist. Everyone is looking for someone to blame. Blame makes us feel better.

It's not good enough to assume that we will learn from our mistakes. We have to humiliate people. We have to make sure the world knows that those people are stupid idiots and we are all better because we have never and would never do something like that.

(and don't think for a second I am saying that there's no use for a legal or justice system-- I won't engage in dialogue about that)

So, I am here to say that I feel sorry for Harambe the gorilla. I feel sorry that his life was ended due to circumstances beyond his control. I also feel sorry that he was in the zoo to begin with, but that's a different issue.

I feel sorry for Harambe's caretakers. I can't imagine how hard it has been on them.

I feel sorry for the parents. They were caught with their pants down and what might have been a near-miss for other parents has become a horrible nightmare for them. I would guess they are embarrassed. I imagine they are ashamed. They might be wondering who their real friends are and if their family will still claim them. I am sure they are relieved their child is alive, and I can bet since they were most likely admiring that gorilla that they feel really bad that he had to die.

I feel sorry for the child. He is young. He was scared and probably still is. The world has seen the video of him screaming in terror. I am sure he has physical and emotional injuries that will take quite some time (and therapy) to heal.

But mostly, I feel sorry that he has to grow up in this world where our worst moments, our mistakes, our accidents are publicized, shared, discussed, and memed for the amusement of the worst kind of Monday morning quarterbacks.