Of Gorillas, Worst Days Ever, and Behaving on Social Media

May your worst day ever as a mom never be as awful as the Mom whose child slipped in the gorilla enclosure.

May your worst day ever as a mom never be as awful as the Mom whose child slipped in the gorilla enclosure.

My news feed has been filled in the past week with stories of the little boy who finagled his way into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo. As a parent, when my children were little, I was always afraid one would manage the same thing. I had nightmares of finding them in the bear's enclosure. They adored watching Mowgli and Baloo play together. What if they didn't understand the true difference between cartoons and real life?

All the analysis, finger-pointing, and blame-finding on the failure of the parents transported a painful memory, one I kept locked away in the dungeon of my mind, straight to my frontal lobe. 

My Worst Day as a Parent Ever 

I experienced many bad days over the last 28 years of parenthood. But I know exactly which one was the worst. It was the day I tried to hand in my resignation. It was the day that confirmed every doubt I ever had. I now knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I could not do this job.

At the time, I homeschooled two high schoolers, two middle schoolers,  two elementary, with a toddler thrown in, just to make things interesting. This particular morning, while trying to get everyone going, I had seen my toddler playing in her room. I began working with my older kids, starting the laundry, and cleaning up breakfast dishes. I lost all track of time.

All of a sudden there was a knock at our door. My next-door neighbor breathlessly explained that my toddler was down at the street. A man had come to her door wanting to know if she knew this child. He had already called the police. After I picked up my stomach off the floor, I ran down our very long driveway to find my precious little girl in the front seat of a man's car. Thankfully, he was a good man. And he had tried to find her family. I just hugged her and cried. Afterwards, I could barely move or talk.

I did not even know she could open the front door- but she had. Then she followed our dog down the driveway to our busy street.

I was the worst mother in the world. I was convinced CPS would come and take all my children away and possibly put me in jail. I thought about exiling myself to some foreign land, where I could do no more harm to my children.

Even after my husband talked me back off the ledge, and convinced me that I didn't need to leave the country, I cried for hours. And then I stuffed it all inside. I told no one. No one. I was so ashamed, and so scared, and wanted no one to know how I had failed to keep an eye on my daughter.

Back to the Current Crisis

As I have read all the accounts of the incident and the accusations being thrown at this parent, I have been repeatedly grateful that my worst day occurred far from Facebook, cameras, and the accusations of the world. We are so very quick these days to point the finger, assign blame, and demand retribution and punishment- all on the few facts we read at the moment.

I think about that mother. I do not know her and maybe she was negligent. Or maybe she just thought her son was right beside her, where he had been just a few moments before. It can happen so fast.

Before I can utter a word of opinion about that mom,  a picture pops in my mind of Jesus, when a horde of accusers drag an adulterous woman to Him. They all were ready to condemn her. Stones grasped in their hands, they looked for justification to wreck vengeance upon this person. But Jesus turned their pointing fingers back at themselves. Who had committed no sin? Let him commence the stone throwing. (John 8)

I feel sorrow that the gorilla was killed. I wish it had never happened. I am also absolutely sure that the child was more important.  But as a parent, I cannot throw stones at that mother. I have made too many mistakes. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

Judgement and Social Media

Social media gives us such a platform to yell, argue, and demand vengeance and justice. But, this entire situation makes me very thoughtful about what I write or share. Is my opinion based on one or two pieces of information? I am not a zookeeper, I do not know that much about the zoo or the options that he or she had. I do not know how careful or not that mother was. I will not throw stones at any of them. 

So how will I behave on social media? I have made mistakes in the past and shared items I later found out were incomplete or even untrue. Here are my new personal standards for myself:

  • I will not share an opinion article without doing my due diligence to confirm it.
  • I will make it my goal to share words of life and Jesus, not shake my finger at others.
  • I will make much of Jesus and little of myself or others.
  • I will prayerfully consider before ever sharing or writing difficult words.

I am not saying I won't ever share my opinions or thoughts. Sorry, but my head would explode if I tried to do that. Exhortation is a part of my DNA. But the heart of Jesus is now a part of my spiritual DNA, and I desire my words to reflect that.

I am so grateful to have not been judged by the world on my worst day ever. I was awfully hard on myself. I think every parent wants their child to be safe. Every parent wants to do the best job they can. All I know is I am grateful that on my worst day ever my child was safe , and I am grateful that this mom's child was safe on her worst day ever. I'm just sorry she had to have her worst day so publically.

Aren't you glad that there are no cameras recording every mistake you make and putting it out for everyone to comment on that wants to do so? I know I am.

Let's be careful with our words and our judgement.

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
— Romans 2:1 NIV