Thank you for writing this — I think because you’re a better writer than I am it will have more impact that all the attempts I have made over the years to point out to people that…
a) just because you have read everything that came across your radar about X does not mean you know everything you need to judge X, and
b) while you may be able to assign some amount of blame to various parties in a situation like this, there is no reason to think that those amount of blameworthiness must “add up” to the harm that was caused,
c) it is incredibly unfair to say that in (b) above, if one of the parties has a lot of cash (but is no more the cause of the accident than anyone else), that “justice” requires that said party must somehow compensate for the harm that was done by parting with a lot of that cash.
As you said, none of us was in that zoo that day. And anyone who has any knowledge of children knows that they can be a little unpredictable. We humans are imperfect. We have imperfect knowledge of the past and present and oh, yes, especially the future — even the next fifteen seconds, sometimes! Even if we had perfect knowledge, we would not necessarily make the best decisions.
For almost all my working life (32 years), I have had “adversary” lawyers not far away, ready to either blame me or my employer for a mistake and “friendly” lawyers telling me how to recognize when I might be about to make a mistake that I or my employer would be legally culpable for. When you wrote about how as a mother you feel you’ve had a target painted on your back, I think I have a pretty good idea how you feel about that always-nearby criticism you can just feel is out there, of people just itching to tell you that you should have been more careful, that you should have thought of that-thing-that-nobody-thought-of but which is now blindingly obvious in under the bright glare of 20–20 hindsight.
As a parent, you have it doubly tough, because if you are _too_ careful, either you, your child, or both will be neurotic messes (or your child will be unable to function without Helicopter Mom nearby) and you will still catch hell from the experts in the stands.
These things I know to be true:
a) there are never any easy answers,
b) people are not perfect,
c) most of us do the best we can, and
d) life is not always “fair” (whatever that is)!
Anyway, Internet, thanks for listening. (Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?)