No More Parenting Blame and Shame. Let’s Support Each Other Instead.

Becoming a mom is the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s opened up my mind, expanded my imagination, filled my heart with more love than I could ever imagined, and instilled a protective sense that only a mama bear could understand. But I won’t lie, it’s also hard. Really hard. And in a world where it some times seems like nothing is private (thank you social media), it can become even more difficult.

When any incidents or tragedies happen to children, my heart hurts right along with the mom and dad. When the negative online commentators rear their ugly heads, my mama bear instinct sets in, and I always hope upon hope that the parents never see the meanness in the situation. It also makes me wonder. At what point did we lose sight of humanity? At what point did we all become perfect citizens? Most importantly, at what point did we decide to replace compassion with parenting blame and shame?

The internet is a scary space of judgmental hate, and parenting in this new technological-heavy world is so much harder because of it.

When I first heard the story of the sweet little two-year old taken by the alligator at a Disney resort, my heart ached. For the boy, for his parents, and for his older sister. I immediately put myself in that situation (it comes naturally as a parent) and cried my own tears of grief for the mom and dad. I thought of this happy family planning a perfect vacation for their children. They probably spent days upon days planning their vacation days, ensuring they didn’t miss a single must-see attraction. And on only their second full day there, after a busy day at the park, they settled down on the resort beach, where a movie was showing. This beach, apparently a known home to alligators, with nothing more than vague “No swimming” signs, hosted a family event at nighttime. As the biggest family event park in the world, this family, like the millions of others before them, put their trust into the high-end Disney resort. Children frolicked on the inviting beach, some waded in the water. They surely didn’t expect predatory animals to be lurking only feet from happy children playing on the water’s edge.

The online hateful comments came in delves after this poor boy lost his life and his parents were forced to deal with the unimaginable. From placing blame on the parents, to hurtful comments, to going so far as to call for charges, there is no shortage of online hate when it comes to tragic events such as these. We saw it with the case of the little boy falling into the gorilla’s habitat, we saw it with this boy losing his life in Florida, and sadly, we’ll likely continue to see it.

Tragic events such as these have always happened. They’re not new. For as long as we’ve been around, parents have had to deal with scary situations with their children, or, the worst of all, the grief of losing a child. It’s human nature and it sucks. But in the past, when tragedies such as these occurred, the parents would be held up with support. Family members, neighbours, friends, and strangers would come together to offer their support or condolences. When it comes to the death of a child, everyone knows a parent should never have to bury a child. There is nothing worse in the world. So please, enough with the online judgemental comments, articles and anger.

It’s easy to sit back behind a computer and judge. We can all decide from the realm of our comfortable and safe home that we would never have let that happen. You can think that your son would never have fallen into a gorilla exhibit, or you would never have let your boy play by the water’s edge in Florida. But the truth is, until we put ourselves in that situation, we have no idea what we would have done. Chances are, we would have done nothing differently, at all. I’m sure I wouldn’t have. Since this little boy’s death at the Disney resort, there have been countless photos posted of other children playing on that exact same beach. Parents expressed disbelief that this could happen and many more (myself included) cannot believe that there were no alligator warning signs. Many more understand that this child could have been theirs. It could have been yours. It could have been anyone.

In tragic situations like this, there should be no blame. No public shaming. Instead of spouting off hurtful comments about poor parenting decisions, it’s time to sit back and have some compassion. Put yourself in this poor mom and dad’s shoes, who both tried futilely (because it’s near impossible) to wrestle their child from the alligator’s mouth. Can you imagine the absolute horror they felt? As a parent, I can only begin to imagine the pain and suffering they are going through. The (unfair) guilt they will live with for the rest of their life. The heartache that will never leave.

This was not a bad parenting moment. It was a horrific incident. And now, more than ever, these parents need support. No judging, no shaming, no blaming.

All we can do, and should do, is offer compassion and love. Every time.

If a child falls into an open gorilla exhibit at the zoo because the mom has two other children with her, including her speedy toddler, we should offer compassion. Nothing else.
If a child is suddenly, without warning, grabbed by an alligator, and his father helplessly does everything he can to save him, but can’t, we should offer compassion and love. So much love.
Any time a parent has to deal with the grief of losing a child, all we should ever offer is compassion and love.

As a fellow parent, I’m begging the online haters to leave their judgements at home. Remember the old adage “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all?” Live by that. Always.

Parenting is hard enough on its own. We do it without a village these days, we do it while juggling 50 other responsibilities, and we do it under the watchful eye of the media and the online world. Instead of turning against one another in the hardest of times, let’s work to hold each other up. Leave the judging and hate behind and replace it with compassion and love. Help each other get through the tough times instead of making them even harder.

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