You’ve probably already seen something in the news about this case. After all, it’s all over news media websites and even Facebook at this point. Recently, a little boy fell into the Gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, which resulted in a broken leg for the child and death by shooting for the Gorilla. But the question that seems to be on everyone’s mind is whether or not the mother should be charged with child abuse.
Whenever a child is placed in danger, especially if they are harmed, people become very indignant and tend to look for someone to blame. And that’s perfectly normal. Children are vulnerable and need to be cared for and kept safe. But at the same time, accidents happen. People slip, fall, drop things, knock things over, bump into other people, the list goes on and on. All done without any malicious intent or forethought. Just accidents. Which is no more obvious than when dealing with children.
Everyone knows at least one young mother who put her baby down on the couch, turned to grab something off the coffee table, and turned back to find her baby had rolled onto the floor. In most cases, that baby had never rolled over before and the poor mom had no idea that her infant would pick this particular moment to share a developmental milestone with her.
We recently spoke to a mother who took her toddler to the store to try on dresses. The mother was only half dressed, pulling a top over her head, when her little daughter slipped under the changing room door and took off running. The mother, terrified and inappropriately dressed, chased her across the store. It was the kind of story that gets related with a great deal of laughter now, but only because nothing bad happened. Which it so easily could have.
In the case of the mother whose son slipped into the Gorilla enclosure at the zoo, the argument has been made that she should have been watching her son more closely. People have said that she was neglecting her son, and should be made to pay the price for not being more attentive to the whereabouts of her child. But we invite you to consider an alternative scenario.
Most parents in this scenario would be far more horrified by what happened to their child than anyone else who was pointing fingers at them. They would likely spend the rest of their lives wrestling with guilt and shame. We don’t know what this mother is thinking or feeling at this time, but we suggest waiting to find out all of the pertinent details before taking a side, or deciding who to blame for what happened.
Yes, it was both terrifying and painful for that little boy, and yes, it’s an utter tragedy that the Gorilla was shot as a result. But we have learned over the years not to rush to judgement or insist on criminal charges until we know the whole story.
What we do know is that children are curious. They are inquisitive, fearless, and have no sense of their own vulnerability. Good parenting classes teach that these are all healthy aspects of a child’s development, and that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process. The truth is, that this never stops being true. Parents make mistakes all the time. Thankfully that little boy survived to tell the tale, but until we have all of the details, we are going to hold off on determining who was at fault here. Snap judgments without waiting to be fully informed often lead to regrettable actions.