I woke up this morning to news that a Gorilla was put down after a child fell into the Gorilla exhibit at a zoo. I was irritated because I’ve been to a lot of zoos, and all I could think was that it would take a lot of effort on a 4-year-old’s part to get into a Gorilla enclosure. It’s certainly not that I felt that a Gorilla’s life was more important than a human’s, or that I assumed I knew all the details about the situation. It was simply that I figured there was a really good shot that the caretaker of said child could have prevented the situation altogether. Before you throw stones at me for this conclusion, remember that I spent almost 10 years working in EMS and I can say with certainty that *almost* every single crazy sort of accident I’ve responded to could have been prevented by following safety or common sense rules.
Then, a few hours later, my family was touring a historic fort site during a Memorial Day ceremony event. While we were browsing the second floor of the actual fort, my two-year-old dumped a bottle of water that I had earlier packed because I was a good, responsible mother. And then the water leaked through the floor and it began “raining” in the downstairs, according to a manager who came up to ask who had spilled water on the floor.
My best attempts at being a well prepared, responsible mother had backfired on me. Forget the knitting kits I had just bought the kids, or the lecturing I’d done about historical living, wars, and the importance of honoring our fallen soldiers. I was the mom who flooded the historical site–not by a child named Calvin who had a stuffed tiger named Hobbes–but by my own “good mothering” that apparently didn’t follow through to my toddler’s hands on the Nalgene bottle.
And then I realized that no matter how strongly I feel about parental responsibility and protected animals, that my own kids have ran into a parking lot before I could grab them before, have turned an aisle in a store and hidden under clothes where I couldn’t see them for 3 minutes, have eaten things they shouldn’t have, have fallen out of shopping carts, and have done a million other things that I have put IV’s into other kids in the back of my ambulance for. And it wasn’t because I wasn’t being a responsible parent, it’s because my youngest is a Wild Thing and raising two kids plus a Wild Thing is like facing a threesome of dinosaurs who double as clowns that communicate with a secret language and who have ninja skills that are superior to mine. As a mom or a dad, you train yourself for the role of “parent” from the time you find out you’re pregnant, but some days, it’s still not enough! And I don’t know why, because it should be, dangit!
Just now, I got on Facebook…and I saw more posts about the Gorilla vs. Child incident than I did about fallen soldiers and the tragedy of WAR. It’s Memorial Day. And now I realize that just a little while ago (after the historical rain incident), I was telling my children about how thankful we must be for our fallen soldiers because in some countries, girls still can’t wear the clothes they want to, can’t go to school, and young boys are forced to be soldiers and to kill others. Today. Happening right now.
What does this say about what makes our heart ache? It’s not wrong to be upset about the Gorilla incident. But is it wrong to not be more enraged about human lives lost? About the atrocities that 4-year-old children are literally being faced with moment by moment around the world? Have our hearts become so immune to horrific news that wars, battles, fallen soldiers, and freedom doesn’t impact us as much as a gorilla being put down after a child falls into its enclosure does? How is it that our emotions are more easily sparked by the gorilla incident than of the 41,892,128 U.S. soldiers who have lost their lives in battle since 1775? Is a gorilla an easier reality to grasp than a soldier dying?
Or are we just more comfortable being enraged by things that are more…comfortable? Or do we like to be enraged by things that make us feel better about our own parenting, skills, or situation?
I could go on about this topic, but I’ve been a mom long enough to know that really, I just need to sit down. I’m not going to teach anyone anything new about zoo safety. I’m not going to discover any details about the incident to determine who or what is to blame. And frankly, I don’t care, because crap happens in motherhood. Literally and figuratively. Your kid jumped a fence. My kid dumped water. Not the same thing, but you know what matters more than me posting about a gorilla and my ideas on excellent parenting on social media? That my kids know that protecting our rights, having freedom, and giving honor where honor is due is of extreme importance.
No one’s going to care or remember in three days if I didn’t comment about the gorilla incident. No one’s going to care or remember in three days if I didn’t comment about Memorial Day, either. But what I teach my children will matter. If I teach them that loving others is more important than being “right” about a parenting incident. That war and our freedom and those who have literally died for it (and the families visiting their loved ones IN a graveyard today) is pretty big freaking deal and that none of us had better take it for granted or waste this opportunity. These are the seeds I’m planting whose harvest will later be shared in the world.
So watch your children, their water bottles, and the fences…but watch what you say and do, the stones you cast, and the lessons you teach, even more.
And thank you, to the 41,892,128 soldiers and their families who gave everything. We honor you today.