Commentary: (May 2016) A three-year-old at the Cincinnati Zoo fell into a gorilla’s zoo enclosure. This incident or lack of judgment made national headlines. The police were considering charging the parents with negligence. They didn’t. The boy was unharmed but the rare gorilla was executed.
An article in the Palm Beach Post by a clueless author prompted my response which was also published in Palm Beach Post on 13 June 2016. A local police chief sent a lengthy email to me supporting my position.
Was It the Gorilla’s Fault the Kid Fell into the Zoo Enclosure?
A recent article in a local newspaper titled, The Shame of Parent Shaming, reveals a total lack of understanding about a parent’s first mission; the safety and security of your child. The author’s dismissive and flippant remark; “If it hasn’t happened to you, your parental helicopter must be low enough to clip the tops of trees.” proves the point.
The author continues to shield the parents of the three- year- old that fell into the Gorilla’s enclosure by recounting her own horrific experience. Her 14- month- old child, standing next to mom, slipped through the railings of a bridge and landed in the creek below. The good news regarding both incidents is that both children were rescued unharmed and returned safely to the arms of their parents. The bad news is that these incidents happen too often with tragic endings.
Losing track of your child near a potentially perilous situation is not to be taken lightly. In fact, if you are one of those parents who lost sight of your toddler in a supermarket or big box store, the potential for danger is real if the child wanders out into the parking lot. Speaking of parking lots, I have witnessed- on numerous occasions- the “la dee da” body language of parents who are not properly connected to their toddlers while strolling through parking lots.
A critical component of watching out for your child is the parent’s ability to assess possible harmful situations. Pools, parking lots, amusement parks, beaches, playgrounds, and zoos are examples of the locations where helicoptering is appropriate. Remember that the toddler’s world of suspecting and assessing danger does not exist. Parents are the first teachers and role models who are charged with protecting their children as well as teaching them about harmful situations.
Bad things happen when parents are not paying attention to their number one responsibility. Witness the number of children who are left to suffocate in cars because of the ignoramuses that are in charge. These stories and others tell the tale of neglect and abuse. Some outcomes are happy and some are tragic. But let’s not give these parents a pass because, as the author quotes one of her sources that, “Children are attracted to the forbidden and are the consummate escape artists.” Even gorillas and mama bears know better than that.