Advice Column, Parenting

Gorillas, Alligators and Compassion

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Accidents happen. All the time. Yet another occurred this week. Another toddler with an animal – first it was the gorilla, then the alligator. And now the internet is alive with criticisms, articles, and perfect people.

Compassion and tolerance, people, what happened to those?

I am so tired of the posts about the gorilla. I even saw a meme with a picture of Harambe – or some random gorilla probably – that said “I had to die because some stupid b!tch wasn’t watching her kid”. Honestly? I wonder if the person who created that meme would actually have the mettle to say that to that mother’s face.

Easy to be opinionated behind a screen, isn’t it? So black and white. Save the endangered gorilla and let the 4yr old die – I mean there are hundreds of those roaming the planet. And now they are killing alligators to try find a body to give those poor parents some closure. But that is ok?

Both horrendous accidents, although one ended very tragically. And yet, people point fingers. At everyone. The zoo, the children, the resort, and the parents.  Mostly the parents.

Good grief people. What is wrong with us? Have we lost the ability to be compassionate?

Let the person who has never had an accident happen throw the first stone.

I challenge anyone to take care of a toddler and see if you can get through one day – hell, in some cases, one HOUR – without having to run at least once to save them from a fateful end! Whether it’s them rushing after a ball that runs into a road, or climbing an electric gate that is about to open, or putting some garden fertiliser in their mouth… or even a peanut, which can be deadly for an allergic child… or stopping them from climbing up a bookshelf that could quite easily fall forward on top of them. I guarantee you small children will head boldly and ignorantly into the threat of imminent danger without a second thought for consequence. That is how they operate. That is how they learn. The prefrontal cortex does not develop until much later and only then can they project possible outcomes without actually experiencing them.

I mean, do we honestly think any parent would blatantly ignore the dangers that present themselves daily to their children? I have three boys. I promise you accidents happen. Fortunately for most of us, those crazy moments that could otherwise have ended in disaster, end in a last minute save. They make for hilarious dinner time tales that everyone laughs at and then says, “Sheesh! Imagine if you didn’t get there in time!” Well, this little boy’s mom did NOT get there in time. And that father was not able to save his boy. These incidents didn’t end in hilarious dinner stories.  These incidents were not one of those last minute saves.

But we weren’t there. We don’t know what exactly happened. We don’t know if those parents tried to stop their children or if they warned him off. We just don’t know. And sadly, accidents happen. In this case, tragedy.

But who are we to sit here and point fingers? To judge those parents?

We were not there. We don’t know how many times that mom may have said “Stay away from the railings!” Or if that dad had said, “Don’t go in the water!” I know that my children don’t always listen first time when I say something. Do yours?

So let’s be more compassionate. Let’s put ourselves in their shoes for a minute. Who knows how any of this is going to pan out for any of them? But one thing is clear – they are all forever changed. They are all heartbroken. And they all did what they believed was best at the time. That ‘negligent’ mom you seem to be judging, that ‘irresponsible’ father who you just cannot believe ‘allowed’ that to happen. It could have been any one of us. Accidents happen.

We need to find our compassion again. We need to not be so black and white. The world is a multi-coloured spectrum where no one can actually judge another because no one has actually walked the exact footsteps of that person.

We were not there. We don’t know.

Stop judging other parents.

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