birth defects

Blaming Parents: Gorilla Edition

Have you seen the comments about the parents whose child fell into the gorilla enclosure? They are receiving death threats after the gorilla was shot to protect the child.

I hate parent blaming and always have. Anything that happens to a child does tend to be attributable to the parents, whether it's genetic inheritance, dread disease, or horrible accident, because parents control children's whole worlds. That's why becoming a parent is not for the faint of heart. It was only after I realized how much I loved my darling Katherine that I realized what a terrible thing I had done to myself -- letting my heart walk around outside my body like that. 

Parents should do everything they can to protect their children, but bad things will still happen. If we had known our city was spraying pesticides, we could have saved Katherine from leukemia. We even knew cancer and pesticides were linked, but not that people were still so stupid as to spray. There are a million things every parent has to think about, and maybe "child climbing into gorilla pit" was just not on the list that day. OK -- I may blame parents who abuse or seriously neglect their children -- and maybe those parents who didn't lament their child's death at age 9 because it had been her dream to fly a plane solo, which not unpredictably crashed. But everyone else -- even the parents whose python ate their baby? Aren't they punished enough without the whole world blaming them? Really, it's a form of denial: "such a thing could never happen to me -- I am magically protected from failure and tragedy." Consider yourself lucky if nothing terrible has happened, but not wise and protected and above it all.

It's perhaps obvious you have messed up as a parent if your child gets too friendly with the zoo animals; or is run over by a car -- your own, possibly; or takes up with the pedophile neighbor, who always did seem slightly creepy; or dies biking or skateboarding without a helmet; or chokes to death on uncut hotdog rounds, whole grapes, or latex balloon fragments. It is less obvious but no less terrible that we are poisoning an entire generation of children, resulting in rising levels of childhood cancer, birth defects, obesity, auto-immune disease, autism, ADHD, and lower IQs, all of which maim, disable, and kill children, who, after all, are innocent, charismatic macrofauna too. And there is only so much individual parents can do about that. Our society as a whole, chiefly our consumerism and the entire regulatory system, is most at fault. It is so much easier to blame the individual parents who mess up or run out of luck. But that's a distraction from the most important ways we abuse our children, like polluting their bodies and destroying the planet upon which all life depends. By the way? That's no good for the gorillas, either.