We hear about tragedies all the time but when it comes to our young people, it hits us that much harder. Maybe because we are parents, or teachers or aunts and uncles. Or maybe we simply remember when we ourselves were kids, innocently doing things kids do, not having a care in the world. But that was then, this is now. And 2016 is different. Aside from the obvious ways and modern conveniences, attitudes have shifted and judgement has commenced, tougher and uncompromising like never before.
Writer and mom Melissa Fenton is sick of all the blaming and shaming parents are doing. She refers to two particular incidents from decades past — the death of six-year-old Adam Walsh, who was with his mom at Sears when she went to go look at lamps while he tried out the new Atari game; and 18-month-old baby Jessica, who was playing in her aunt’s backyard and fell into a 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 has something else in common; they had an entire country of moms and dads supporting the grieving parents.”
No questions were asked, no blame was laid, there wasn’t “one single ‘Where were the parents?’ comment,” Fenton writes. “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.”
Fast-forward to now, 2016, which Fenton dubs “the year of the PERFECT PARENT.” And you can feel her anger and her heartbreak.
She refers to the latest tragic story, of the two-year-old who was splashing in the water by Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort when the unthinkable happened: an alligator snatched him while his father, who was watching his son play, attempted to fight the animal to get his boy back.
“Pure horror. Sheer Terror. Parents who actually had to watch their baby be taken from them, as if they were in some African nature documentary.”
Fenton could just as easily have been referring to the boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, which had a different outcome — a child safe and sound; an animal shot and killed.
Both tragic, unforeseeable accidents. And while she, and many of us, weep for these mothers and fathers, there are some who think differently. Those who seem to believe “accidents are not allowed happen,” rants Fenton. Those who are, apparently, perfect.
“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.”
She continues, referring to the “pitchfork carrying mothers and fathers” who need to “accuse” and “blame” and “disparage” and “criticize”: “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.”
She proceeds to write about what’s next for the parents of the boy at Disney, who had to pack up his stuff, then return home without their baby boy. That their next move would be the unthinkable, picking out a casket for him. That they would be left with this agonizing, gut-wrenching grief and anger that might never leave and will continue to “suffer every single day for the rest of their life.” That’s more than anyone should have to deal with; criticisms of their parenting skills shouldn’t even be uttered.
Just be kind, is all Fenton is asking. No sick comments about what they should’ve done. Bad things happen to bad people, sure, but they also happen to good people. “Stop the blaming. Stop the shaming.”
Yes. To all of this.