Parable of the Bad Parent

*Disclaimer: Before you venture further, know that I’ve done my best to stay mum on this particular topic. I didn’t want to throw my two cents into a pot already brimming with opinions. But 90% of the reason I created this blog was to vent, and so vent I shall. You’ve been warned.

Of all the outrage that I’ve read and heard over the Cincinnati Zoo incident, there’s one Parablethat really irks me: people calling for a CPS investigation to be launched against the family whose child got into the enclosure.
I understand that this gorilla was part of a critically endangered species. I understand the mourning over a creature that so many have grown to love. I get it. I do.
What I don’t understand is how you could ask that this family be torn apart more than they probably already are by involving CPS… and seemingly without justification. First, they have to bear the shame that their child left their supervision long enough to get into this trouble. Two, they have to deal with the absolute backlash from all ends. Three, the threats of possible fines, lawsuits, and being banned from every zoo everywhere, ever.
Do you know what goes in to a CPS investigation? Do you know what that’s like? And I’m not just talking about for the parents and adults of this family. I’m talking about the little 4-year-old boy. And before you go all “well, he did that to himself by crawling through the precautions blah blah blah”. 4-year-olds don’t really have a good sense of cause and effect, especially when it comes to their behavior. Hell, half the adults I meet don’t seem to have a very established understanding of C&E, either.
Now stop and ask yourself this: do you want there to be a CPS investigation launched because you genuinely feel that his parents PURPOSELY endangered his life, or do you want a CPS investigation launched as payback that Harambe was killed in order to protect the child from a potentially deadly situation.
Sure, we could get in to the whole “well, they let their child slip away”… Let me stop you there. If you don’t have children of your own, shut up. Take your hands off the keyboard. If you’ve never dealt with a curious child in a busy, crowded setting: Shut up. Take your hands off the keyboard.


Parents screw up. That’s the bottom line. Sometimes it’s a simple screw up like cutting your child’s sandwich into triangles instead of rectangles, or forgetting to wash the outfit they’d planned to wear for picture day. [Insert major mommy guilt here]. Then there are the screw ups that could cost you more than just a headache or an upset kid.


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost one of my children in the grocery store. It takes seconds. Literally SECONDS to get distracted reading the label on a box of Cheerios and… POOF… your kid is gone.


Yes, seconds.


Now we’ve instituted the “hold the basket” policy. Sure, it takes up a stupid amount of space in the grocery aisle, but hey! At least my kid won’t be running around possibly getting into your merchandise or setting something on fire, right?!


There was even an incident where I got caught up playing with my sons, forgot to make my then two-year-old’s oatmeal in a timely manner, and she nearly burned our house down after sticking an oatmeal package in the microwave and turning it on full blast.
Parents screw up.


And let’s face it, these parents lost track of their kid; a mistake that could have cost their son his life. An entire zoo of patrons may have had to watch a gorilla crush this little boy’s skull with one hand in the same way zoo officials said he could crush a coconut.


This isn’t the dentist incident. This wasn’t a set of parents who went to the zoo with the INTENTION to let their child slip away and crawl through a gorilla enclosure, who went with the intention to somehow get this gorilla killed and garner national outrage. And let me tell you something about panic… when your child is missing, you’re not thinking logically. Dozens of scenarios, each worse than the last, pass through your mind faster than you can really comprehend it. My first thought would have been, “someone stole my baby!”, not “holy crap, maybe little Johnny crawled and climbed over all these obstacles to hang out with the apes”.


No, I’m running for the bathrooms, the food court, that obnoxious stand with all the inflatable toys and stuffed animals.


But I’ve gotten slightly off topic.


CPS. I know that people these days like to throw government entities around like an Ace in a poker game, but you’re not playing for something like money. You’re gambling with life. The exact scenario the staff at Cincinnati Zoo found themselves faced with.


Don’t punish the child because his parents screwed up, and launching a CPS investigation will do exactly that. As an adult who dealt with CPS and went through foster care as a child, I can tell you firsthand that this can truly devastate this child’s life even more than his little adventure to the gorilla pen. Do you realize what kids go through in a CPS investigation? The kinds of questions they’re asked? The way their privacy is absolutely invaded and their home life crippled?


If there truly is cause for concern that the child was purposely endangered, that his parents were purposely neglectful, then by all means there should be an investigation. But that’s for the people directly involved in the situation to decide. This may be a “democratic” nation, but we don’t get to vote against these people, and essentially this little boy, unless charges are filed and an indictment is issued. Then it’s up to twelve of their peers to decide their fate.


The sad part is, either way, this family’s life is changed forever. The collective mass has decided this for them. They’ll probably live under the shadow of this incident for the rest of their lives. Maybe the little boy is young enough that he won’t suffer any serious emotional ramifications from his own actions, and from watching his parents deal with the stress of becoming a target of outrage, but only time will tell. Children are resilient little things.


And just like most traumatic situations, there are two victims, two sets of families mourning a loss. You don’t get to negate someone else’s grief because you feel yours is more justified. Don’t unnecessarily punish this little boy because his parents screwed up.

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