Saturday, June 4, 2016

Gorillas, Parenting, & Kids, Oh My!

So, unless you've been living under a rock, you know about the little boy and the gorilla. I apologize for being yet another voice weighing in, but this is weighing heavy on my heart because I know what it feels like to have your child dart into traffic or around the grocery store without control. I've parented in every possible method, including leashes, to prevent and stop my kids from darting, but sometimes they are just excited and they just zoom off! It happens. Here's my thoughts, I apologize in advance for being long.

The main response/reaction that seems to be circulating was that an "innocent" animal was killed because a "terrible" mother didnt have her kid under her control every single second. Is that the general consensus?

I don't even know where to begin. We have left any sense of logic, common sense or consideration altogether. There is no sense left in the world, except in the minority of people who are either defending or at least giving benefit of doubt to the zoo personnel and the parent involved.

Said an eyewitness:
“I don’t feel like it was neglectful,” she said. “She had three other kids that she was with. She had a baby in her arms. It was literally the blink of an eye.”
She added: “I saw it, and I couldn’t even prevent it. It happened so fast.”

So, if the mom is to blame because she didn't have control of her kid, why aren't we also blaming the bystanders for stopping it too? Aren't they also responsible as they saw a child slip through and didn't stop him? I mean, if the parent who loves and cares for that child didn't see it and stop it in time, why weren't other bystanders also held to the same level of responsibility? Doesn't it "take a village"?

She had three other children. And last time I checked, moms only have two arms and hands. That isn't even enough to hold onto all three children, and she had a total of four, according to the information I've read. It's a bit hard to have your hands on four children with two hands isn't it?

She should not have gone out if she couldn't handle/control all four kids, you say? Really? So now we have to subject all moms to forced house arrest because they *might* run the risk of being hurt or lost or falling into a zoo exhibit? She might have had help with her. One of the older kids might usually be very helpful and just happened to be acting like a kid at the moment and not being very helpful.

Or maybe she HAS been staying home every day, all day long, and she wanted a break from that boring every day routine and she just wanted to go out to the zoo with the kids for a day and have a little bit of fun. What could happen at a zoo?! Those places are supposed to be safe, right? Well, something bad did happen, but thankfully her child ended up just fine considering, probably only with the fear and memory now of something crazy and scary. Mom will have to forever replay this moment in her mind, probably having her own nightmares, while her four year old child is also struggling to understand in his very confused and scared mind as well. This probably leads to a life long fear, something that he too will also have to deal with likely for his entire life. First of all, I think that's punishment enough, but add to that the fact that mom's shouldn't have to just stay home all the time, and that maybe the "one" time she decided to go out for a fun day turned into disaster is also weighing on her mind and spirit as well. How long until she feels safe enough to go out again?

I know as a mom of three kids, it is SUPER HARD to go anywhere with them. And I'm speaking from a place where one of the three doesn't even walk by himself yet, and another one still fits in the shopping cart seat! I don't have three kids who are all walking around on their own. In the zoo, right now, I'd have a stroller and a baby carrier and a third kid walking around who's nine years old, and old enough to ask for help and know better because he's a little bit less impulsive. And it's still MAJORLY HARD to go out to the grocery store with all of them. It's only going to get harder as they get more mobile and outgrow strollers and shopping cart seats! I don't know the ages of the other three children, but I did read that one of them was a baby in the arms of the mom. Anyone who's ever held a baby should know that is an armful + anyway. How can she wrangle a baby AND a four year old, plus two more kids? Have these judges tried it? I suggest that they try it and THEN they can start judging.

Kids are impulsive. They don't think things through. They imagine things and then they want that thing, and they don't have the ability to think about all the results of their action and imaginations. Think about it: when you tell a child no, you act out of your higher knowledge of what might happen, or the reasons why you are saying no. Kid's don't know all that! They have NO IDEA what the results of their imaginations are, they don't quite yet have that ability. When you're chasing three other kids, you don't have the time to stop and explain every detail to why you're saying no. This kid had been saying how he wanted to get in the water with the gorillas, and mom said no, more than once. He didn't understand why not, so he impulsively jumped into action. This is why kids aren't allowed to drive, live on their own, and make other "adult" decisions! They aren't adults, and one mom with four kids is still only one mom. 

Moving on to the zoo personnel, they did the right thing, I fully believe that. They had no other options that were safe for all parties involved. The only solution was sacrificing the creature rather than the child. They didn't have time or heartlessness enough to think "Well, some stupid parent deserves to lose their kid to the gorilla...." - and you can bet if they HAD thought that way, we would be boycotting them and their zoo, and issuing death threats.

If they had made the popular "other" choice, tranquilizing the gorilla, it would have taken several minutes to take effect. We've heard that over and over again. They don't just fall over asleep. There's a reaction. That reaction would have only intensified the situation.

Let me replay this for you. In the short video of this that I saw, the gorilla stood OVER the child. Anyone who understands animals knows that any time an animal stands over you, or tries to position itself higher than you, is trying to display dominance and intimidation. Dog's do it to babies and i cringe. That's why I don't allow my dog to do this particular display of positioning. Even we humans place kings and queens on thrones that are higher than the rest of us, and its also common to bow to royalty. We place ourselves lower in submission, and they higher in dominance. This gorilla was, from the very start of the video, displaying dominance and intimidation.

Next, the gorilla grabbed the boy and DRAGGED him through the water. I don't know on what planet that would be considered protection. If I grabbed your child's foot, and dragged them through a body of water, you would think I was crazy and trying to drown the kid, not that I was protecting them.

Then it appears the gorilla helps the boy up, holding his hand and whatnot. This momentary few seconds of "gentleness" is not the same thing as being protective. It's more curiosity perhaps, and investigation. Even lions investigate their prey before pouncing. Even a housecat will watch a fly, gently following it around before it pounces and eats it. The gorilla then grabs the kid by the back end, pushes him face forward into the water and drags him,  seemingly by the pants, again through the water.

After that most videos end, but its said the gorilla hauled the boy up a ladder, and proceeded to stand over him again at the top. They said he was shot with the boy between his legs, what that means is unclear (to me) if it were the front legs while towering over the boy, or the back legs sitting down with the boy on his "lap" so to speak or what.

Nothing in that situation makes me think "protective". What the FEMALE gorilla did years ago is protective and far different from what this MALE gorilla did. Fact is, whether we want to admit it or not, males and females, even when talking about other primates, are VERY different. Typically women are more nurturing, and in some cases do all of the baby care, in many animals the males will kill babies in order to reproduce with the female again, or whatever.

This gorilla seemed to be putting on quite a show of dominance and aggression. Dragging a new surprising creature through the water in a pretty violent way pretty much negates any idea that the gorilla was doing the boy any favors. Protection would have had to have been in gentleness, and he was not consistently gentle. Even men (or women) who physically abuse their partners are gentle often enough to convince them that they aren't all bad, right? Why would we think any better of a simple animal?

In a lot of the sarcastic posts going around, there's things being said about how now "everyone is an expert on zoos, gorillas and parenting", and that's a great point. Few of us know zoos, even fewer of us know that much about gorillas. There are quite a few out there who know quite a lot about gorillas, and they are either hesitantly or flat out supporting the decision the zoo made based on gorilla behavior, even in the wild, and you're talking about a captive gorilla, which are thought to be less happy because of their circumstances.

And though many of us are parents, if we were really honest with ourselves we would know that each child even within our own family is very different. One child is fearless and will do anything, and another is much more timid and follows the rules to a fault. One child is extremely sensitive and another seems to be much less concerned. We cannot, even for one second, think that we know this mom, this child, this family, or even the understanding of the bystanders. Details get lost in panic and adrenaline fueled situations. What is being said might not be the complete story. What we see on video lacks the context of what was happening with mom and bystanders before, after and during. There really isn't a way for us to judge what happened because there really isn't a way for us to have all the facts.

I will add, for kids with autism, it is sometimes extremely difficult to get through to them. Even my nine year old has problems transitioning his brain off of the thing he's determined to get or do, and redirect him into a more logical, safe conclusion. It takes time, and if I were distracted with three other children, I admit I may not be as successful as I would want to be either. In no situation is that the fault of the child or the parent. It's just life. We tell adults to use their seat belts, not drive distracted, don't drink and drive - think about it, how many adults do you know that drink and drive anyway? And that is a SIMPLE one to prevent and avoid, and yet so many deaths still can be the result of a drunk driver! If we can't get adults to make the right decision, why do we expect more of a four year old boy? 

One thing I know for sure, I think it's extremely common for a child to run off from their parents. I'd even be willing to say that it happens to every parent with at least one of their children at least one time in their life. If you're a parent and it hasn't happened to you, your time is coming. Be careful not to judge this mom so harshly that you judge your future self. 

I find it heartbreaking that they are even investigating the family at all, or even considering charges against them. I can't see any instance where it would make any sense at all to blame them for what happened. It was not intentional (on any rational adult's part) for all of this to have happened. The right decision was made, the life of the child over the life of a captive aggressive animal, and everything else turned out okay. It could have been so much worse.

In a way, it's good that we have compassion even for animals. But that compassion should never toss aside the life of a child or the mother. People come first. We wouldn't have blamed anyone for protecting a child from a wild jungle animal of any kind. We shouldn't do it with a zoo animal either.

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