Parents haunted by their negligence.


Parents take a child to the zoo, (not such an unusual occurrence)  the child aged four, ends up in the gorilla enclosure,  (somehow he crawled through a barrier and fell into the gorilla’s enclosure) the parents of the child are almost universally demonized, in a frenzy of comments in the media and social media,  especially by animal rights supporters.  The witch hunt has well and truly began.

The Mother tries to defend  herself,  “As a society we are quick to judge how a parent could take their eyes off of their child and if anyone knows me I keep a tight watch on my kids. Accidents happen […],” Gregg wrote, as cited by several media outlets”.

It’s true that as a parent it is impossible to watch your child all the time.  Maybe as a parent I am over-cautious and protective.  Take your eye of a child and they could be doing anything,  drinking some toxic liquid,  running out into the road,  picking a poisonous mushroom…all is possible. There are so many appalling potential scenarios, we just hope that no such things happen to our child.

I don’t really like at all the idea of zoos, however I have taken my son on quite a few occasions. I have never been concerned for my son’s safety in terms of some unlikely  encounter with a wild animal, I have been more concerned  he could be snatched by some weirdo, or child predator.  Of course if I saw my son doing anything dangerous around an animal enclosure, I hope I would react quickly and decisively.

What can you do to make a young child safer?  Teaching  and trying to instill common sense, seems a good idea.  For example as parents we have already tried to instill road safety  into our three year old.  We try to teach him to look out for cars and look both directions before crossing the road. Of course he has no notions of the dangers of a speeding car,  but educating a child about potential hazards, should be a part of parenting.

I wonder how much of a percentage of people condemning  the parents are parents themselves? Some are saying the parents should be held accountable.

An eye witness’ account of the event is less damning.  Deidre Lykins viewed the drama unfold, and the boy dropping  into the enclosure. Her account is that she saw the mother calling out for her son and was next to him when he disappeared.  She claims the mother is not at fault, and went as far as to write on Facebook: ‘This mother was not negligent and the zoo did an awesome job handling the situation! ‘This was an open exhibit! Which means the only thing separating you from the gorillas, is a 15 ish foot drop and a moat and some bushes!’

Animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said the zoo should have had a second barrier around the exhibit adding “Even under the ‘best’ circumstances, captivity is never acceptable for gorillas or other primates, and in cases like this, it’s even deadly,” PETA said. Obviously if a four year old can enter an enclosure the fencing must have been far from sufficient. The zoo however claimed the exhibit opened nearly 40 years ago, and this was the first breach.

In a rather contradictory statement another eye witness said  the small child said he wanted to get in the water before the incident, to which his mother, who was also watching several other children, replied: ‘No, you’re not, no, you’re not,’

The zoo issued a statement “We are heartbroken about losing Harambe, but a child’s life was in danger and a quick decision had to be made.”

Added to story is the fact that the father (of four) has a long criminal record, with offenses such as burglary, firearms offenses, drug trafficking, criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and kidnap. It obviously does not take much time to dig up somebody’s shady past.

The fact of the matter is…that a beautiful animal,  the innocent party  in this saga, the Gorilla named Harambe, lost its life, through no fault of its own.  If the child had died, there would have been a different  kind of outrage.

Meanwhile in Japan a boy of seven was punished by his parents (his crime throwing stones at cars) by leaving him in an area populated by brown bears (renowned for being particularly aggressive). The parents had to change their story to the police, at first they didn’t dare tell the truth of their utter stupidity. .

Both sets of parents will be forever haunted by what has happened.  The eyes of the world are focused on their negligence.

The negligence of Kate and Gerry McCann is still to this day being called into question. While on holiday in Portugal, they went to dinner, leaving their children unattended.  Their daughter Madeline was abducted (although there are other versions) . Whatever happened that night is still a mystery but the McCanns have had untold criticism for leaving their children alone, from all manner of different people, including celebrities. Their guilt must be unbearable.  A parent’s worst nightmare.

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C is for children.

Serpent and Apple


C is for Children

When I was in my twenties, I’d imagined having children was an inevitability. It never happened. I was never with the right person, and the relationships I had ran their course for one reason or another.  When I got over the age of  forty, the idea of having a child seemed a forlorn hope.  My friends had long since procreated.  What made things difficult was the fact that I’d always had a really good connection with children and had for a long time worked with them.   I got married for the first time aged fifty,  and it seemed logical to try to have a child and we would live to regret not trying .

I did not consider it inevitable that my wife would fall pregnant, you read or hear about so many couples who are unable to have children.  When I arrived back from work to be informed by wife she was pregnant,  it took time for the news to sink in, it seemed so unreal.  Then followed nine fraught months of worry.  Such worry I had never experienced before in my life.  I was not able to go to the first consultation and scan, due to work.  However the second I was able to witness for the first time, the little wonder we had created,  it was a ball that had a pulse, seemingly a strong one, it’s heart was throbbing powerfully. I dubbed this little ball “Little Pea” because it seemed so miniscule

Fears a Father, late to fatherhood might have…

To some extent  there is the danger I might  feel a bit self-conscious about being a father at 51 and fearful of  comments from other children like “Is that your Grandad”? The child might feel a bit ashamed of having such an ancient parent.  These days things  are different, there are male parents with mops of grey hair, or next to no hair, the age of the elderly parent is upon us and I am not alone thankfully.  Just looking around me as I take my son either to or from the crèche, tells me this.

I worry I am the most uncool father, but my son seems to like things that were around and part of my childhood, he is going through an obsession with Mary Poppins at the moment.  At the same time I have been introduced to the delights of Peppa Pig.

Things I have had to learn

I have discovered so much about young children, expect the unexpected, your child can wake up happy singing…then all of a sudden they come down with a fever, all your plans for the day have to be altered.  You have to be adaptable.

As a father/parent you spend a  lot of time in self-reflection. Maybe a father in his fifties is going to be different to one in their mid-twenties. After all we went  through during the pregnancy, and perhaps because we are “elderly” parents, perhaps we have a tendency to be over-protective.  In the early days any form of illness sent shock waves.  You have to judge, how sick your child is, whether to go the doctor.

My son is full of energy and mischief, but I can say I am fit enough to run after him and will certainly be ok, for a football kick around.

A father at 51, yes it is exhausting, but the rewards are more than there to be had. I know I have been more than blessed to have such a wonderful child, sometimes I can’t believe he is for real.

Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.

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This article is part of a blogging challenge,

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