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to perfect parents, from the rest of us.

June 1, 2016

monkeyfellAs I’m writing this, there’s a raging debate about the life of a gorilla vs. the life of a 4 year old little boy. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the gist. Mom turns back. Boy springs loose and falls in Gorilla pen at zoo. Gorilla is either saying “he’s mine. I’ll protect him,” or “he’s mine. I’ll eat him.” Zookeepers can’t tell and put kid’s life first, killing the 17 year old gorilla.

People are freaking out, because the mom is a failure. She should be able to keep her eye on her kid every single second of every single day, never ever making a mistake. Perfect parents have come out of the woodwork, carefully and angrily explaining this to her. She’s a disgrace to perfect moms everywhere.

Everyone else is freaking out, because the gorilla died. The zoo is stupid for protecting the kid, who never should’ve been in there anyway, but his stupid mom couldn’t keep an eye on him every single second of every single day. The zoo should’ve done it this way and that way, say thousands of armchair experts.

If you’re on the side of the gorilla, everyone wants to know why you don’t care about the kid. If you defend the mom, we can’t fathom why you don’t care about the gorilla or all the abandoned puppies and kittens and ferrets in the world.

Let me tell you a story. When I was little, say three years old, my family and I were at the San Diego zoo, watching the gorillas. They each thought the other was watching me. They walked away, going their separate directions, without their only child. Oops. My parents are good parents. I was a really well behaved kid. I cried. They panicked. The zoo found me, somehow found my parents, and reunited us all. I wasn’t a kid who darted from my mother’s view. I didn’t do things I wasn’t supposed to do. I lied all of two times as a kid, and this wasn’t one of them.

I’ll tell you another story. That same year, the same well behaved three year old leaned over a fountain in a Cincinatti mall in the dead of winter, just to get a little drink. A few drops. She fell right in. Mom was standing no more than two feet away. In the blink of an eye, her sweet toddler with brown ringlets and a very heavy winter coat was soaked from head to toe.

Now, now. Use your imagination. The gorillas in the San Diego zoo weren’t in that fountain in Cincinatti. If combined, these two might make one relevant story, but that’s beside the point. The point is, stuff happens. Parents cannot watch their children all 86,400 seconds a day. It’s impossible. The zoo took what they thought were the appropriate precautions. Trust me. I’m not saying I’m not sad for the gorilla. He didn’t know any better. He was an animal reacting as animals do. I’m not a huge fan of zoos, and I won’t take my children to a circus. However, with the situation at hand, they did their best.

Can y’all imagine if the zoo said, “Sorry lady, you shouldn’t have missed those few seconds!? Just stand here helplessly while your child is pulverized by this big primate?” Yeah, right. What would y’all be fussing about then? It would be some of “thank God for the beautiful gorilla,” and a little of “that mom deserved it.” How messed up would that be?

It’d be very messed up.  So are the constant accusations from parent to parent on how we can all do better. I have a bit of advice. Wait until someone asks for yours. When you’re perfect yourself, feel free to tell folks how it’s done. I know that’s no easy feat, what with all your free time, spent waiting for the screw ups that never happen. Be patient with the rest of us, please. We aren’t perfect, but we’ll share our wine anyway.

*originally published in the Metro Spirit, Augusta GA

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