A couple days ago, I wrote a piece about Michelle Gregg and the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla, Harambe, who was shot and killed as the result of a terrible situation gone out of control. A 4-year-old boy dodged out of his mother’s sight and found his way into the gorilla enclosure. Meanwhile his mom watched helplessly as the animal dragged the toddler around the moat like a rag doll. I can only imagine what hell that must have been.
We’ve all made mistakes and had situations with our children escalate or get out of hand in a matter of seconds. These are moments that we all wish we could change but we simply cannot. These accidents happen and all we can do is learn from them and pray we survive them.
Myself, I’ve had a 3-month-old roll off the changing table, when I turned my head for a split second to see why her 2-year-old sister was screaming bloody murder. We ended up in the ER and she was fine but I still feel terrible guilt over that.
I know toddlers are like tiny Houdinis and quite frequently bolt for doors, down streets and try to get out of your reach; most often as some sort of game. There is a unique pleasure that toddlers find in things that happen to terrify their parents. They don’t have rational thoughts so what they see as great fun, a game of tag with mommy or daddy, we find as absolutely horrific because we are acutely aware of all the things that could go wrong. That’s why we are responsible for keeping them safe. Parenting is hard work.
I remember once my 2-year-old daughter bolted off down our Cul de Sac when I was 9 months pregnant with her sister. I was terrified. I chased her down, praying all the while that she wouldn’t dart out into the road. The entire time she was looking back at me smiling, giggling and laughing. She thought it was a game. All I could think was, “Dear God, please don’t let this little person who I love more than life itself get hit by a car!” So I smiled back, using my sweet mommy voice (as not to spook her) while I was panicking inside. So see, I do understand how these things happen.
When I wrote the piece, I was very upset that the child was hurt in what appeared to be such a senseless and preventable situation and I was upset that the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla had to be put down due to human error. I lashed out in my piece. I became harsh and judgmental in my words and I shouldn’t have because the person I was putting all the blame on is only human. She is a mom I know what a labor of multitasking, exhaustion and complete love motherhood is.
I wrote the piece too early, with not enough information. While I did do my research, there was still not enough helpful information available at the time of publication for me to accurately write about the situation. It’s not an excuse but, anyone who has ever read this blog, knows that I do tend to react immediately while my emotions are still running high. It’s how I process things. It’s also why I am a blogger and not a journalist.
Here are a few facts about Michelle Gregg I didn’t know when I wrote the original post.
I know now from further investigating that Michelle Gregg only turned for a second and was being distracted by another of her crying children who needed her attention. She tried to go over the enclosure herself to rescue the boy but was warned by zoo officials that it would only cause the gorilla to become more aggressive. When the boy told her he was going to go into the enclosure, she told him no but when he saw his chance to get into the enclosure, he took it.
I always believed that the gorilla had to be put down in order to secure the child’s safety. That’s a no brainer, a human child’s life always holds more value than an animal’s life. I have two daughters and nothing has more value to me in the world than their lives. I’m certain that had it been my own daughter, there is nothing I wouldn’t have done to insure her safety. I’m fairly positive that I would have been down in the enclosure myself because I tend to react first and think about the consequences later.
I was very disappointed that more wasn’t done to help the child and mother before the toddler got into the enclosure. I know that some people did try to help but said they couldn’t get to the child in time but it just reminded me that we live in a world where people don’t necessarily try to help others, even when they see it happening because it might be an inconvenience. What happened to it takes a village?
I’ve been in situations where I have seen a stranger’s child heading towards danger, not to this degree obviously, but about to run into a parking lot or get fingers smashed in a door and I always try to stop the child from getting hurt because how the hell could I just watch something like that happen, especially as a mother, myself? But we live in a world where sometimes when I help, the parent gives me a dirty look because I spoke to their child, completely disregarding the reasoning behind it. People just don’t go out of their way to help their fellow people like they used to.
I have no super powers and sit on no throne ( as many of my commenters facetiously stated). I don’t think that my mothering choices are beyond reproach. I’m just a mom trying to raise my children the best way that I know how. I don’t normally make a habit out of judging other moms. Generally, I believe parents should parent however is best suited for their family.
After initially hearing that the child had told his mom that he wanted to go into the enclosure several times before hearing her side of it, I felt like the mom could have saved herself a lot of pain by just taking his warnings more seriously and locking him down; stroller, hand holding, handing off to another adult or whatever. I now know that a willful 4-year-old is going to do what he wants to do if given the chance.
It’s easy for me to say what I would have done because I am not the one who suffered the ramifications of this momentary lapse in judgement. I’m sure Michelle Gregg will feel terrible about this for the rest of her life and every time she looks into her sweet boy’s eyes she will be thankful that he is alive and acutely aware that things could’ve ended much differently.
Toddlers are quick and fearless. No matter how hard we try to be the best moms to our children, sometimes bad stuff still happens. Anyone who has ever read this blog knows that I am flawed and have made a shiton of mistakes in motherhood. In fact, that was the entire premise of this blog in the beginning.
I judged another mom harshly because I didn’t agree with her parenting choice. I had a knee-jerk reaction and I condemned a woman for making a one-time error in judgement.
I’m sorry Michelle Gregg, you’re not a terrible mom; you’re just a human, like the rest of us.