Thursday, June 2, 2016

Empathy vs Judgement (My take on the Zoo Incident)

Social media has erupted over debates surrounding last week's tragic events at the Cincinnati Zoo. Some arguments sound as if they're about choosing the child's life over the gorilla's; some are even over whether the gorilla had to die to save the child and if there was another way in such a short amount of time; and the last argument is over whether to have empathy or judgment for the mother. I don't think many will argue that the incident was indeed tragic and no one really wanted to see the gorilla die. However, I like to think all people would choose a child's life over an animal's. But wow has social media once again blown up with whether we should condemn this mother or not.

It wasn't too long ago the same thing happened with Arizona mother, Cherish Peterson, when she left her two month old in the car at the grocery store. Once again we were divided on whether to feel empathy or judgment for her. Now they are separate cases in which one involves the curiosity and speed of a four year old and the other a baby who has no fault in the situation.

In both cases I have felt nothing but empathy. I obviously do not know either of the mothers personally. I know there are negligent parents out there (I work in public education), but I also know as a parent we are not perfect. The first thing I thought of with the zoo incident is how I could see that being one of my girls. My oldest because she's fearless and was climbing things from eighteen months. I've often shared stories we've all laughed at about her climbing out of her crib and pulling herself through an opening to flop onto the bed on the other side to escape her room or the time the public librarian was condemning me for her climbing to the top of the book display case while I fought with their self checkout with my crying baby at my feet. Maybe we've laughed at those incidents because they were harmless but how easily could it have been a different situation? I could see it being my middle child because she's my wonderer. She gets into her own little world and we'll often find her paces behind us or like today the one getting into things because she's four. Kids are curious; some kids like my oldest are more fearless and adventurous in exploring the world around them; kids are fast and can be into something in the blink of an eye; some kids are a bit more stubborn and will insist on doing or exploring the things they know they're not suppose to.

Even though there is no blame you can put on the child in Cherish's case I probably emphasized with her even more because I know what it's like to be absent minded, exhausted, feeling like you're at your wits end with keeping up with your children and everything else on your plate. How many times have we read about parents forgetting their child is in the back of the car and leaving them there while they go into work? Today's world piles more on us, overwhelming us more than ever before. Her son was two months old. My son is almost two months old. I will still get in the car, halfway down the road (happened just the other night when we went to dinner) and think "oh my God did we grab the baby?!?" We did but my brain is still trained to load and find two kids. Any parent with young kids know what a monumental task it can be to get out the door somewhere or load everyone back up after a trip like somewhere like the grocery store.  Even the other day when we loaded to leave town and my brain is going in so many different directions with list checking and the kid wanting that and this that he was the very last thing we loaded. With as packed as the car was and not being used to three kids in the backseat it would have been easy to miss him at first.

I can't judge these mothers. As a mother I imagine they are condemning themselves enough as it is. I know if it was me these two things would haunt me for the rest of my life without anyone else's judgment needed.  We make mistakes; we are not perfect as parents or human beings. Every time I hear one of those stories about a child left in the car I  pray that I/we don't make a mistake that would cost a child's life.  Now we should all pray that we never make a mistake enough for it to be the next viral news on social media.


No comments:

Post a Comment