I didn’t write anything about how awful people were when the little boy fell into the gorilla enclosure. I didn’t say anything about how quick people were to judge the poor parents whose child was killed by the alligator. What finally put me over the edge were the comments on an article about the most recent instance of a baby dying in a hot car, left there by her father due, as usual, to a change in the family routine.
It was an accident, terrible and tragic. Witnesses saw the father sobbing in the driveway. His child is dead. Nothing can change that. And although it WAS an accident, he will forever believe it was his fault. He will never stop going over that day in his mind, imagining what he might have done differently and wishing that he could have a second chance.
And yet the comments on this article were vicious. Inhumane. Merciless. People wrote that he should be locked up forever–or in a hot car for a few hours. They accused him of lying, said he did it on purpose, called him a terrible father. How could he, they asked. I would NEVER forget MY kid, they said.
The same hate that has polarized the country over issues like gun control and presidential politics has seeped into every area of public discussion. We are all firmly entrenched in our little self-righteous camps, unwilling to listen to one another or to extend any benefit of the doubt or God forbid any mercy to ANYONE.
Loudly judging other parents arises from fear. It’s our way of saying that we are not like THOSE parents and that something like that could never happen to OUR kids. It’s a way of asserting control but it’s just an illusion because no one can control everything.
Chances are your kid won’t fall into a gorilla pit or be eaten by an alligator. But let me tell you, at some point a Bad Thing will happen to your child. Maybe he will break a bone, or be in a bad car accident, or flunk out of school, or use drugs, or shoplift, or get caught drinking underage. Maybe she will wander away from you in the mall and get lost, or turn into a Mean Girl, or develop an eating disorder, or experience an unplanned pregnancy. And if people find out they will talk about how you weren’t protective enough, how you weren’t paying attention, how you didn’t raise that kid right, how there must be something wrong with you, how that would never happen to THEIR kid.
And you will probably be telling yourself some of those same things.
Let’s cut each other some slack, shall we? Let’s accept that we are human and make mistakes, some of them with tragic consequences. Let’s concentrate on what we really CAN control–loving our kids and offering mercy to those who need it.