My Take on Harambe and the Boy at the Zoo
Let’s be fair- we weren’t there and we don’t know enough to make an informed decision. End of story. Let the people who were there deal with the situation and stop being an arm-chair quarterback/ parent.
But… (and this wouldn’t be a blog post unless there was a ‘but…’)
Here is what we do know:
- Somehow a young child got into a zoo enclosure. This is dangerous and should be close to impossible. The zoo should be investigated and the protection against small, impulsive children ever doing this again should be increased- for the safety of the children and the animals.
- Millions of young children visit the zoo and never get into the enclosures. Do even great parents sometimes lose track of their children at times-yes. Do even well-behaved little ones sometimes do things that are mind-boggling stupid- yes. But, (and here’s that but again) usually they do not, which is why this is big news. The fact that the child was not well supervised at the time, and the fact that the child did something a child of his age should know not to do are red flags. This could be a day that would never happen again in the life of this family, or it could be a sign of neglect. Child protective services must look into it. If it is an aberration, then the family has nothing to worry about, albeit any visit from child-protective services is a hassle. BUT, if the child is not being taught to avoid danger, and is poorly supervised, he could be playing in traffic, jumping out a two-story window, or engaging in other behavior that is even less forgiving than jumping over a large wall and meeting a 400 lb animal- and that should be prevented from happening.
- There were people around when this happened. Eye-witnesses say they thought a woman close to the boy was his mother and that she was going to stop him… and then the woman turned and asked whose child is this and it was too late. When I was raising kids, most mothers would step in if a child was not behaving properly, especially if the child might be in danger- and most mothers would thank us for doing so, because we realized, despite the popular myth, that we do not have eyes in the backs of our heads. Today we are so afraid of upsetting others that we hesitate to act. This hesitation on the part of the on-lookers made an uncomfortable situation a deadly one. (Deadly for the animal, potentially deadly for the child.) We need to stop worrying so much about other people’s feelings and start doing what is right.
- We also need to stop being so quick to judge. Before all the facts were in, people who had no clue who this mother was and what really happened were already judging the situation. Some were telling people ‘everyone loses track of their children at times’ and others were condemning the mom for being the worst parent in the world. The truth is- you don’t know. Others decided based on the little bit of video that was released that the animal should not have been killed. Again, only an eye-witness truly knows how roughly the child was being dragged and only someone familiar with the animal could gage what he might do next. The right people made the call. It was a tough decision, and one they are probably not happy about having made. Let’s get off their backs. They likely feel bad enough about what they had to do already. (Remarkably, no one seems to be thinking about the feelings of the people who had to make this tough decision… But then again, as a society we seem to have a list of people who’s feelings do not count, and people doing tough jobs to protect others seem to be at the top of that list. Another rant, for another day.)
- And while we all understand why it is bad to call a good mother who made an understandable mistake bad, do we really understand why the ‘everyone loses track of their child’ tact is just as bad? When we make excuses for bad behavior, we do not give anyone an incentive to fix the behavior. Instead they feel justified and the problem remains. While it is horrible to compound the misery a good mother would naturally feel on what has to be a horrible day, it is just as bad for the child to let a negligent mother off the hook by letting her believe everyone is really just like her. Some things need to be fixed. This may, or may not, be a wake-up call for this family. Making excuses for them without knowing their situation is not ‘helping’ either. We have an epidemic of child neglect in this country- just ask a teacher. (We also have helicopter parents etc who also make teacher’s lives miserable, but that is another story.) Here we have a chance to say, ‘Hey, this is what can happen if you do not watch your child and/or teach him not to do things like climb over fences etc.’ While this mother may have done everything she could, not watching your child and not teaching them to obey does increase the chances of these things occurring and we must be honest about that if we want to prevent it.
Let’s stop judging everyone (on both sides of the equation) and start thinking about the consequences of our own actions. Let’s start doing what’s right….