Parents, I beg of you, stop blaming and shaming other parents.
Thirty-five years ago, a mom shopping in a Sears department store went to go look at lamps and left her 6-year-old with another group of boys, who were all trying out the new Atari game at a kiosk. That boy’s name was Adam Walsh.
Thirty years ago, an 18-month-old toddler playing in her aunt’s backyard fell into a well. Rescuers worked non-stop for 58 hours, finally freeing “Baby Jessica” from the well.
In both cases, a tragedy happened—an unforeseen tragic accident took place which left Adam dead and a toddler fighting for her life deep underground. But they also have something else in common: There was an entire country of moms and dads supporting the grieving parents.
Let me repeat that: Everyone reported the rescue efforts without blame. No blame. None. Zero.
No questions asked, not one single “Where were the parents?” comment—just a country of other moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, watching in horror as a set of parents, one of their own, went through the unthinkable. Adam was our son. Jessica was our baby daughter.
Those parents were us.
Flash-forward to 2016, the year of The Perfect Parent.
Yesterday, a 2-year-old boy, splashing in the magical lakefront waters of a Disney Resort, succumbed to the wilds of mother nature. An aggressive alligator scooped him out of the water, right under the watch of his father, who attempted to fight with the alligator to free his baby son. Pure horror. Sheer Terror. Parents who actually had to watch their baby be taken from them, as if in some National Geographic documentary of the wild.
A tragic and unforeseeable accident. An accident.
I weep for this mother and father. I am sick with anguish for the pain, agony, misery and regret pulsating through their veins this very second. And I bet you are too.
But not everyone is.
You see, we now live in a time where accidents are not allowed happen. You heard me: Accidents, of any form, in any way and at any time, well, they just don’t happen anymore.
Why? Because blame and shame.
Because we have become a nation of blamers and shamers.
And how are accidents allowed to happen if we can’t blame someone? Surely, they can’t, right? I mean, random acts of nature, unpreventable tragedies and fateful life-changing events that take place in a matter of nanoseconds cannot possibly take place if everyone is being a responsible parent, right? Nope.
They can’t, because this country and its population of perfect pitchfork-carrying mothers and fathers sitting behind keyboards need to accuse. They need to blame, to disparage, to criticize in every damn way and at every damn corner the parenting of another.
And when do they really get to lick their blaming chops? When a tragic accident happens. That’s when the pouncing is at its freshest, when raw emotion and ignorance collide, and they dig their word claws in, and take hold of whatever grace these grieving mothers and fathers have left in their souls.
And then they tear it out.
Listen to me very clearly, perfect parents, very clearly.
I’ve had enough.
I’ve had enough of scrolling through comment threads and seeing over and over again questions like, “Where were the parents?” and thoughts like, “This is what happens when you don’t watch your kids.”
I have simply had enough.
I have one question for the blaming and shaming moms and dads—you know, the ones who immediately blame the parents, the ones who go on the Internet and type comments like, “This is nothing but neglect by the parents,” and “They should have known better. Who was watching that little boy?” and my favorite, “I would never let that happen to my kid.”
Here is my question:
Have you ever been to a child’s funeral before?
The funeral of a child is an event in life that you never, ever want to experience.
Now let me ask you another question.
In the coming week, these parents will fly back to their home in Nebraska without one of their children. They will leave a vacation resort, packing up his Buzz Lightyear pajamas and his favorite blanket, and they will make an excruciatingly difficult journey home. A journey that they never in a million years thought they would be making.
They will meet with a funeral director, pick out a tiny casket, a tiny burial suit, and surrounded by family, they will bury their baby boy.
And they will suffer every single day for the rest of their life.
At the funeral for this 2-year-old boy who died in front of his parents, can you do me a favor? Can you walk up to the mother and say the words that you just typed out last week? Can you? Can you greet her, hug her, shake the father’s hand and then say, “Who was watching that little boy? You should have known better. I would never let that happen to my child.”
Can you do that for me? I mean, you felt those words so deeply in your heart and soul that you typed them for a million people to read. Certainly you can say it straight to the faces of the people you meant it for, right?
Here, let me help you.
Put away your pitchfork for a moment, and try this:
To the mother and father who went for a walk on vacation for the last time with their little boy, I am deeply sorry that you had to experience the worst kind of tragedy possible, an accident. I grieve with you. Your baby was my baby. Your son was my son. I have nothing but love for you, love to help you get though the pain yesterday, today and for what is gonna seem like a thousand tomorrows. I wrap my thoughts and prayers around your aching heart and soul. May the God of this universe in some miraculous way bring peace to you and your family.
That is what you say. That. And just That.
Stop the blaming.
Stop the shaming.
In their darkest hours, can we please just love other parents. Please?