Stop Blaming Parents Every Time Their Kid Gets Eaten

After recent events where children have been endangered or killed by nature, thousands blame the parents–but maybe they shouldn’t.

The summer has barely started and we’ve already had two major stories about children being endangered or killed by animals in the US. In case you’ve been under a rock since late May, I’ll give you the quick low down on what happened.

The Alligator

About a week ago, a family from Nebraska was at Walt Disney World (WDW) on a family vacation. They were out on a beach at the Grand Floridian resort at WDW when their little 2 year old started playing by himself in the water nearby. Then an alligator came and grabbed the boy. It was able to get away with the 2 year old and the little boy ended up dying. There were signs posted saying “No Swimming” around the water area. Even though the little boy wasn’t fully submerged in the water, wading in was enough to be attacked.
 
Florida authorities were able to later find the alligator and euthanize it. 
 

The Gorilla

On May 28th, a 4 year old boy snuck his way into the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo. A male gorilla named Harambe took ahold of the boy in what many officials called a “life threatening situation”. Watch the video below to see what happened.

Authorities at the zoo had to kill the gorilla in order to recover the child safely.

Gut Reactions

“WHERE WERE THE PARENTS?” They were in Orlando on the beach. It’s not like the little boy drove himself to Orlando all the way from Nebraska. He was 2. “BUT WHERE WAS THE MOM”? She was at the zoo. Again, it’s not like the 4 year old kid took himself to the zoo. He’s 4. Some other reactions on social media are “Why weren’t the parents watching their kid?”, “People should have some common sense”, and my personal favorite from @bloggyelf–”they killed the alligator? parents & Disney were responsible, gator was just doing what gators do.” In a way, @bloggyelf is right, the gator was just doing what gators do. Is it really the parent’s fault this happened, though? 

Kids are curious. By virtue of not being alive long enough to learn about the world yet, kids are also idiots. Being a curious idiot isn’t a great combination, so kids have to learn by trial and error. The boy at the Cincinnati Zoo took the risk of getting in trouble with his mom, who had her hands full with other kids, to go see a gorilla and it did not pay off. The little boy in Florida wanted to play in the water, but neither he nor his parents could have imagined the consequences (seeing as how there was no alligator visible in the water).

No matter how hard you parent, there is going to be a time when you lose sight of your little one. There is going to be a time when your little one gets hurt and you won’t be there to protect them. If you’re lucky, you can find your kid when they get separated or intervene when they get hurt to stop it from getting worse. Sometimes it’s not possible to get there in time. We’re animals. Sometimes the cub dies, no matter how close of an eye you keep on it. That’s life.

Blame

It’s easy to get riled up, though! There is a petition out there called “Justice for Harambe” which demanded the “neglectful mother” be held responsible for letting her son into the gorilla exhibit. No matter how many witness testimonies I’ve read, they’re all saying the same thing: she was right there, and he just slipped away. Kimberly O’Connor spoke with CNN and gave this eyewitness account:

The tragedy happened after the boy told his mother he was going to get into the moat, and the mother admonished him to behave before being distracted by other children with her, Kimberly Ann Perkins O’Connor told CNN.
“The little boy himself had already been talking about wanting to go in, go in, get in the water and his mother is like, ‘No you’re not, no you’re not,’ ” O’Connor said. “Her attention was drawn away for seconds, maybe a minute, and then he was up and in before you knew it.”
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Harambe

So, basically, 500,000 people signed the petition, having not been there, having not met the child or his parents, and they all believe that Harambe is dead because of the child’s “neglectful mom”. I think any mom who takes her son to the zoo with his friends is a caring mom. Even caring moms can get distracted for 30 seconds. I’m ashamed to admit I think even I signed one of these stupid petitions in the heat of the moment, because blaming the “negligent mother” is the easiest thing to do in a situation that doesn’t seem to have a right answer or easy solution.

We’ve gone from a culture of being empathetic and alert for one another to pointing the finger and being cruel. You were a kid once, too. Did you not ever try to stick your head in a fence or try to go pet that nice looking guard dog? Didn’t you ever lose your mom or dad at the mall during Christmas when you passed that toy you really wanted from Santa? Okay, well I think I’ve done all three of those things, and my parents were and are great parents. I could’ve been hurt, I could’ve been bitten, I could’ve been kidnapped. Those things didn’t happen, so no one calls my parents negligent. But there are plenty of times I was able to slip away, even after being told “No”.

We’re Only Human

Let’s back up a bit and look at things differently. We, humans, are animals. We used to live outside in this thing called “nature”, and nature can be a real bitch sometimes. There are poisonous plants, dangerous animals that want to eat us, bugs, and sometimes there’s really awful weather. Lately, like in the past couple thousand years, humans have been working really hard to find ways to avoid primal concerns like being chased and eaten by a tiger. We’ve gotten really good at it! We’ve created buildings to keep us away from bad weather, we’ve learned how to defend ourselves against other animals, and we even have medicine now for the invisible things that want to kill us called diseases. 

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No Swimming

We’re still animals, though. And no matter how hard we try not to, no matter how many signs we put up or fences we build, at some point an accident is going to happen and a person or a child is going to be endangered by nature. If a baby doe gets eaten by a wolf, that doesn’t mean the mom and dad deer are bad parents. When a doe gets eaten by a wolf, it means the wolves had a plan and had the deer outnumbered. When a baby antelope gets picked off by a lioness, it doesn’t mean the mom and dad antelope didn’t try to teach Billy how to run fast and stay with the herd, it’s that the lioness was faster.

The cool thing about being a human, though, is that we’re social creatures. That makes us different from thousands of other animals out there. We thrive by coming together and living in communities, by problem solving together, and by looking out for one another. That’s how we survived the wiles of Africa thousands of years ago, and that’s how we will continue to survive today. Let’s use our communal strength now to comfort those who have lost their little ones, let’s problem solve how to ensure the safety of little ones better, and let’s look out for each other like we’re supposed to instead of playing the constant and endless blame game.

Images courtesy of Cincinnati Zoo and Newtown grafitti