Parenting is hard. Really hard. And so we second guess ourselves, and our kids, and each other. It’s hard to make all the right decisions, and to be vigilant every moment, and to know what to do, all the time. The pressure can make us weary, and make us doubt ourselves, and even make us make mistakes. I know I’m not the perfect parent, and I suspect you’ll admit that you aren’t, either. So why? Why on earth are we so hard on each other, and so quick to hurl judgments at each other? It seems like lately, every time there is a news story about something happening to a child, it is quickly followed by a hateful flurry of social media condemning the parents, even if all the facts of the story are not yet known.
Today, my heart broke a little, as I read the story of the precious 2 year old little boy who lost his life in an alligator attack in Orlando. This family was on vacation, at the most “magical place on earth”, enjoying a respite from “real life”. And then “real life” came crashing in like an uninvited guest, destroying their days of magic, and changing their reality forever. This child was simply wetting his tiny feet a little at the edge of the lake at their resort, with his parents close by. He wasn’t being neglected, or abused, or mistreated. He was just having fun. And in a matter of seconds, his little body was snatched by an alligator, and even with his parents RIGHT THERE, they could not save him. And joy turned to mourning, and laughter to tears. The worst thing a parent can ever experience was now their reality. And when they wake up tomorrow, and the next day, and the next month, and the next year, that reality will still be a wound in their hearts that won’t completely heal this side of heaven. And that just breaks my heart.
But you know what else breaks my heart? That these parents, in the midst of their worst nightmare, didn’t find comfort in the kindness of people, but were instead skewered on the sharp judgments of others, who weren’t even there. Instead of compassion, they were met with hatred. In perusing some of the comments from readers on various news sites, my stomach turned. The parents were called all sorts of names that I won’t repeat here, some called for their arrest, and much venom was spewed as this tragedy was discussed. Thankfully, there were others who spoke with kindness, but the number of people who spoke hatefully was quite significant. And, unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident. If you’ve followed the story of the little boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo in Cincinnati last month, you’ve probably seen even worse, even though that story ended with the child being safely rescued (although at the cost of the gorilla’s life). I think these are simply symptomatic of the kind of world we have built…where judgment prevails over mercy and vitriol trumps compassion.