Distracted Parenting And The Cincinnati Zoo Tragedy

After hearing the news that a young boy fell into a zoo enclosure over the weekend, I instantly leveled my verdict: the parents were at fault.

If you were in my living room when the news broke, you would have heard this Good-Bad Dad going off:

“I bet it happened because some dirt-bag parents weren’t watching their kid!”

“Seriously, people need parenting classes.”

“That would NEVER happen to me!”

The venom I was spewing was thick and toxic.

I continued my living room lecture, channeling my inner “Rambo-Dad” by saying:

“If my kid falls like that, I’d be the first to jump in there after him.  How could any decent parent NOT?”

As with many things in my life, a subtle comment by my wife reeled my misguided anger in.

“Oh yeah, Tobe – remember when you lost Vivi at the water-park?”

My venomous rage was silenced.  The glass house from which my stones were being cast was now rightfully shattered.

Those parents spewing the same venom in regard to the terrible situation at the Cincinnati Zoo, need to be as adequately humbled.  The parent-on-parent shaming should stop for now.

Tragic situations that involve a terrible mistake by a child that was seemingly unsupervised should be a chance to learn – not times to pump our puffed-up chest while marveling at our superiority as protectors of our children.

Instead of signing an online petition to have the parents of the fallen little boy jailed, I want to focus on the lesson that should be learned.

For me, that lesson is that kids can find ways to do the unimaginable.  When the unimaginable connects with distracted guardians, the worst possible outcomes happen.

No one is immune – not the P.T.A President, not the most doting of Good-Bad Dads.

I’ve created such potentially dangerous situations with my kids – not making them buckle up for a quick ride down the street, allowing them to skip the bike helmet for a quick ride and, as I was reminded, losing my daughter at a water-park for twenty minutes.

I’ve been fortunate that nothing bad has come of such horrendous parenting.  If something had happened to my kids during these lapses, I’d be the person the online petition would be condemning to jail.

Now armed with the awareness of my hypocrisy, I’m working to change my GBD focus from pointing fingers and self-shaming to a renewed effort of being truly present – with my kids and those around me.

I’m a distracted parent often – my mind can be adrift thinking about today’s “have-to’s” or the full laundry basket awaiting me at home.  It’s not uncommon for one kid to have my full attention at the cost of the others.

If it’s not a wondering mind that allows my kids to stray, the vibrating cell phone in my pocket could be to blame.

I cannot be the only parent that uses this situation to re-affirm a commitment to be keyed-in.  All parents should try.

My kids aren’t the only little people who I can influence.

If I see a wandering kid, I should help.

When a group of children is doing something that isn’t right, I should let them know.

I can help supervise the under-supervised little victims of distracted parenting.

More communal parenting is a sure-fire way to make sure these situations become extinct.

The Cincinnati Zoo situation is terrible in a number of ways.  I find it cruelly ironic that the gorilla involved was named Harambe.

The name immediately makes me think of the word “Harambee”, a Swahili word meaning “pulling together.”

When parents exit their glass house, quiet life’s noise and have each other’s back, we will have done exactly that – pulled together.


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