You can hardly read a parenting-related post or article without seeing some sort of outrage or parent shaming. It seems as though it has become the new norm to judge other parents. Or worse; deem them as unfit without knowing all or even any of the facts. This is what happens when you are able to hide behind a phone or computer screen instead of looking someone in the eye, I guess.
This past week in Aurora, Colorado a six-year-old boy wandered away from home. Unfortunately, the family's worst fears were realized a few days later. The boy's body was found at a nearby park in a pond. Of course, this case has brought out a lot of assumptions, shaming, and attacks on the parents. Because in this day and age, that's just how society seems to roll.
Back in the day, before the internet, we didn't shame parents like we do now. We rallied around grieving parents. We grieved with them. But in the age of the internet, now a grieving parent is met with all of the "better" parents in the comments section blaming them for a tragic accident.
What happened to compassion? Empathy? Support? Are these emotions gone in today's world of social media and comments sections?
Unless more information becomes available that says otherwise, I am not so quick to judge these parents as the worst kind of horror unfolds around them. Why? Because I know exactly how fast something like this can happen to normal, good parents. Parents like you and me.
You see, my oldest son also wandered off once when he was six.
My son Red's bus stop was halfway up the block, around the corner and almost another block away. Every morning he and I walked to the bus stop together. That was our routine every single morning.
On this particular morning, I realized that I had forgotten something. I went in the house to get it and came out to find that Red was gone from the porch. At that point in time, he had a history of hiding for fun. Fun for him, not for anyone else! Because of this, I looked for him around the yard and the neighbor's yard. As each minute passed, panic started to set in. Did someone come and snatch him off the porch in the minute that it took me to run inside?
No. Come to find out, my son was getting on the bus and going to school!
This six-year-old boy took it upon himself to walk up the street and around the corner to the bus stop while I had no idea where he was. My one mistake? I trusted a six-year-old to have enough common sense to wait for me while I ran in the house for a minute. Wait for me to walk him to the bus stop like we did every single morning.
He was six. Not two. SIX! This is plenty old enough to be able to turn your back for a few minutes.
Horrible things happen to good parents every day. You get caught in your routine and expect your children will stick to the script. We can't keep our eyes on our kids 24/7 so when a child has a lapse in judgment, it isn't necessarily because a parent is negligent.
If you haven't had a panic moment with your kids, then I am sincerely happy for you. I and many other parents have had one or two over our parenting careers. That doesn't mean we are bad parents. It means that most young kids haven't experienced tragedy and don't know the terrible things that can happen if they break the rules.
So, please. The next time you hear a story about something bad happening to a child, don't automatically resort to parent shaming. Have a little compassion until all of the facts are out and try to put yourself in their shoes. They are quite probably living the worst moments of their lives.