Do you ever have days where you just hate the internet with the fire of a thousand suns??
I get it. We all have perspective. We all have the right to sound off about what we want whenever it suits us. ‘Cause ‘Merica.
Even though I consider myself a blogger and bloggers are synonymous with sharing their opinions and offering commentary about whatever, I personally try to stay out of the fray. I don’t mind discussing one thing or another with the people in my day to day life, but it’s a whole other thing to comment about something on social media.
Even if you are like me and you’re pretty much a nobody, addressing something “publicly” adds our voices to the collective conversation in an entirely different capacity. And we humans don’t always think things through when we do.
We all know what happened at the Cincinnati zoo. We know that a beautiful and magnificent member of an endangered species died. And it’s horribly tragic. I love animals. LOVE them. And the thought of such a wonderful creature dying violently is heart-breaking. I cannot imagine what his caretakers who had to make that decision must be thinking. So yes, let’s take a moment to pause and mourn this beautiful creature.
But I’m not here to talk about Harambe.
I’m here to talk to you about a mother. A parent. A person. On a trip to the zoo with her children. Who woke up on a Saturday and assumed that the day ahead with her children would be the same as almost any other day she spends with them.
Little did she know that her dire and awful mistake would garner her world wide attention. Scratch that. Not just world wide attention. But world wide scrutiny. And shame. And bitterness.
And hate. Because believe me, a great deal of the reaction to this news story is rooted firmly in hate.
All because she screwed up for a few minutes. I mean, yeah, she royally screwed up. And she will now spend a good chunk of the rest of her days living under the scrutiny of the public at large who doesn’t even know her, but sees itself fit to call for her to be prosecuted, punished and shamed without remorse for her child’s mistake.
Unfortunately though, this is what we have signed up for as parents.
We have signed up not just for a 24/7 job, but also for the lifestyle and responsibilities of being a parent. We have signed up to be culpable for the actions of our children for pretty much the rest of our lives. Because we all know that whenever someone screws up, whether they are four or thirty-four, the rest of us are looking at the parents and wondering how they could ever raise such an imperfect person.
I’m choosing to speak up now because I have been this mother. Just maybe you have never heard of me because my children never ended up in the gorilla pen at a large zoo. At times my actions as a mom may have proven inadequate, but hey, at least my shortcomings have never made headlines or trended on Twitter.
Let me tell you a story that a thousand other mothers could tell you.
When my oldest child was not quite four, we were leaving our local Target store. My sons behavior had taken a downhill turn, and he was being difficult – as three year olds are wont to do on occasion I’m told. Shocking.
I even had another adult with me to aid in my ventures. We were approaching our van in the parking lot when his mood was deteriorated further. I let go of his hand for just a moment as I fished out the carkeys from my purse, and guided the shopping cart containing my toddler to a stop.
I let go for a moment and let my thoughts travel to the next thing on my to do list.
Meanwhile, my son decided that he had finally had enough.
He started screaming as he about-faced and started running full speed away from me. In a busy and crowded parking lot. Red-faced and not paying attention to his surroundings at all.
Let me tell you something about my son. Even now, his bad moods are few and far between. He has always been a very reasonable person ever since he was born. This was incredibly unlike him. This was totally out of character and unexpected.
But in that moment, it didn’t matter.
I screamed and ran after him, catching up to him maybe ten seconds later, so this whole thing was over in barely the blink of an eye. But a car backing out of a parking space or rounding the corner in our lane and crushing my son would have taken far less than that.
I wanted to vomit when I caught him. People looked at me, trying to distinguish what was going on, wondering why a child was screaming bloody murder in a parking lot.
Some I’m sure clucked their tongue at me, dismissing me as yet one more parent who couldn’t keep their child under control. How dare I?
I knew I had dropped the ball. Why would I EVER let go of his hand in a parking lot?? Why didn’t I think, and have my adult companion hold his hand? Why didn’t I help him calm down before we loaded up into the car? Why why WHY!!?
That’s all that I could think about for the rest of the day, an even on occasion now. I think about how differently that situation could have turned out.
My husband and I are very hands on parents. We have rules. We have boundaries. We monitor or children in potentially unsafe situations. We might even check a lot of the boxes for what people say make a parent “good.” But if you had seen what unfolded in that parking lot for fifteen seconds on a Thursday afternoon, you would probably never know that.
And if you had watched, would you have given me the benefit of the doubt that I’m a good mother?
I feel stares when I’m at the store on a normal day. Any parent probably does.
The way we speak to our children. The way they behave. The way we as parents handle their bad behavior. We know people are watching.
It’s people who have no issue with staring us down while our child is throwing groceries from the cart or fussing at a restaurant, or people who are careful to watch the madness unfold peripherally while they purse their lips and roll their eyes in displeasure.
Dear Peanut Gallery of the World, we parents know that you are watching us.
We know you’re judging. And maybe it’s time that you understood that no parent is perfect. Maybe it’s time you understood that children are at times highly unpredictable, but capable people.
And maybe it’s time you minded your own business.
Every parent has majorly dropped the ball at one point or another in their parenting journey. It’s just that minor screw ups don’t make it into the news.
Once, I let my youngest child fuss and cry from her bed while she was supposed to be napping because I just wanted her to give up and go to sleep. Because I was over it. Turns out she had a bee in her room that she was both hypnotized by and afraid of.
I once let another child fuss in their bed until they drifted back off to sleep, only to find in the morning that they had puked in their bed and slept with it for the night.
Another time, the back storm door in our kitchen wasn’t latched and my not quite two year old let himself out and went on a stroll…toward the street in front of our house.
I have snapped at my children needlessly. Been grouchy and impatient with them in public. I have punished them when I was angry. I have told them that I didn’t want to play with them and sent them away in a bid for two minutes of sane child-free time spent on my iPhone
But I’m a mother who is literally trying her very best every single day.
At times, my life could make for a series of convenient headlines if only something worse had happened. But headlines don’t tell you about the people who are trying to do their best by their children. Blurbs on Twitter or Facebook don’t tell you the entire story. And they sure as hell don’t trumpet the accomplishments of the parents who get it right every.single.day.
We make excuses for so much in this world. We tell people that they don’t have the right to judge another’s religion, sexuality, gender identity or life choices. We tell people to frequently mind their own business when it comes to matters that don’t involve them directly.
Maybe it’s time that we realized that the decisions that parents make are nobody’s business but theirs. Maybe it’s time that we realized that a fifteen minute or fifteen second snap shot in the day of a life of a parent doesn’t tell the whole story.