In Defense of Negligent Mothers

June 1, 2016   

Over the last few days, I’ve read lots of well-written and articulate posts/blogs suggesting that maybe we shouldn’t be calling for the beheading of the Cincinnati Zoo Mom, and they’re right, for a lot of reasons.  But here are a few more:

First, assuming Cincinnati Zoo Dad was along for the trip, why is no one suggesting that HE’S a bad parent? Where was HE when all of this was going on? Why is HE given a pass? Was HE not equally responsible for keeping an eye on his child? That seems unfair.

Second, I remember a day when my oldest was 3 and we went to K-Mart to buy Easter shoes. In the three seconds it took me to check the price of a pair of white patent leather Mary Janes, my daughter disappeared. Turns out she was hiding in a clothing rack, from which she emerged unscathed [excepting whatever damage was sustained witnessing her mother in full-on thermonuclear hysteria and being party to petty theft (I ran out of the K Mart clutching said shoes without paying for them – I returned later to settle the bill)] but for the 5 minutes she was missing, I was convinced she’d been kidnapped by a predator and that I would never see her again.

That didn’t happen, and she is now a well-adjusted 25-year-old who occasionally eats bugs. Had it gone the other way, and had there been social media back then in good old 1994, I’m sure I’d have been the target of the sort of vilification now being heaped on Cincinnati Zoo Mom, notwitstanding that many have noted (and not always very nicely) the staggering degree of overprotectiveness I demonstrated when my kids were little.

Third, I don’t know the child in question, but any kid who can get himself over a protective barrier, survive a 15 foot drop, and speed through yards of jungle in a split second sounds like a kid who probably has a lot of energy and is pretty quick on his feet. I also had one of those kids – one who could scale a refrigerator at the age of 20 months (still don’t know how she did it) and was the only person in the house who knew how to successfully manipulate the child-proof locks and other safety devices designed and installed solely for HER protection. She required CONSTANT, FOCUSED supervision, and even that did not preclude injury to home furnishings and other people.

I tried my very, very best, every day, to stay on top of her and keep her (and others) safe, but my diligence did not prevent her from throwing a jar of spaghetti sauce out of the grocery store cart, or turning off all the lights in church during a Good Friday vigil, or emptying six feet of library shelf of several hundred books, or biting a friend on the cheek and drawing blood, or falling down the basement stair not once but twice…and the list goes on.

So, you can be a good parent, and you can try your hardest, but you will inevitably, and without realizing it, place your child in harmful, potentially disastrous situations. Sometimes, the child falls into a gorilla enclosure. Most of the time, they don’t.

The gorilla is gone, and that makes me very sad. But until you tell me that Cincinnati Zoo Mom was sitting in a restaurant working on her third margarita, reading People Magazine, and sniffing heroin, after having shot or otherwise disabled Cincinnati Zoo Dad, leaving her kid to run amok for hours on end with zero supervision, I think I will refrain from being a Mrs. McJudgy Pants and just be thankful that my kids managed to survive having me for a mother.

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