The par­ent­ing po­lice and the go­rilla in the room

Woonsocket Call - - OPINION - By THOMAS L. KNAPP

Only bad par­ents lose track of their kids. Only the neg­li­gent, the un­qual­i­fied, the sus­pect ar­rive at the emer­gency room -- or fu­neral home -- with tod­dlers in tow. When some­thing in­ex­pli­ca­ble and ter­ri­ble hap­pens to a child, it must be Mom and Dad’s fault. That would never hap­pen to OUR kids be­cause WE im­part dis­ci­pline and main­tain vig­i­lance, right?

En­ter Harambe, the 400-pound go­rilla killed by Cincin­nati Zoo staff af­ter a tod­dler es­caped adult su­per­vi­sion, vaulted a rail­ing and fell 15 feet into the great ape’s en­clo­sure.

The ire of an­i­mal lovers fo­cused on the killing is not un­rea­son­able. Harambe clearly acted in a pro­tec­tive, rather than hos­tile, way to­ward the child. Zoo per­son­nel over-re­acted ... but un­der­stand- ably so. With a kid’s life seem­ingly at stake, the pos­si­bil­ity of happy end­ings dis­ap­peared the in­stant the kid took his tum­ble.

Harambe is dead. The Cincin­nati Zoo will sur­vive a bad public re­la­tions week with its le­gal pos­te­rior prob­a­bly fairly well cov­ered. The kid is okay, treated and re­leased. No­body left to deal with but the par­ents.

As a father of three (25, 17 and 15) who have never fallen into a go­rilla en­clo­sure at the zoo, or for that mat­ter bro­ken so much as a fin­ger, I guess I could play the parental moral su­pe­ri­or­ity card here. But that would be wrong. There but for the grace of God go we all.

Per a Face­book wit­ness ac­count: “the mother was call­ing for her son. Ac­tu­ally, just prior to him go­ing over, but she couldn’t see him crawl­ing through the bushes! She said ‘He was right here! I took a pic and his hand was in my back pocket and then gone!’”

I’ve played the “put your hand in my pocket so we don’t lose each other” trick my­self. What we have here is not neg­li­gence or poor par­ent­ing, but rather the ter­ri­fy­ing “stuff hap­pens” sit­u­a­tions ev­ery mother and father sweats through night ter­rors over un­til the kids reach, oh, 40 years old or so.

As “free range par­ent­ing” writer Lenore Ske­nazy points out at Rea­son mag­a­zine, “smug and an­gry [are] a heady com­bi­na­tion” for those of us who dodge the bul­lets of weird child in­jury.

Heady, but un­jus­ti­fied. Stuff DOES hap­pen. We can’t bub­ble wrap our kids and store them in the closet for their first 18 years, and even if we could it would be a bad idea.

Mourn Harambe, but lay off the tod­dler’s par­ents.

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