What is your worst mistake as a parent? Forgetting to close a baby gate and watching your toddler fall down a flight of steps? Driving off without buckling your infant into their car seat? Letting a slippery and sudsy baby slide out of your grip and underwater for a second?
We’ve all been there and done some variant of the “Man, I’m so glad nothing happened because I was a boneheaded parent and made a mistake” moments. Mine was stepping away for a millisecond from an infant who was propped on the couch to have her roll over for the first time and use that first roll to roll onto the floor. I’m also pretty sure I cried a whole lot longer than she did. Given that she is a healthy and happy almost five-year-old, she suffered no lasting effects from my pretty normal mistake.
But what If your biggest parenting mistake was allowing your kid to hang out with Jerry Sandusky? Or taking them to a midnight showing of a new “Batman” movie? Or letting them ride their bikes with a cousin? What if you biggest parenting mistake made international news because it involved a tragedy of epic proportions?
In addition to the massively crushing weight of your own guilt, you would get the scornful judgment of every person with an opinion, passed back and forth on Facebook and Twitter and blogs like your pain just doesn’t exist.
Yes, I could think, “Who in their right mind…”
But I’m not going to, not today. Maybe not ever. Because no parent ever goes into a situation thinking that their child will be the victim. No one signs up for that role. You go to a movie and think, “I hope my kid enjoys this!” or “I hope my kid sits still for this.” You don’t think that a trip to the movie theatre will end up in a hospital or a morgue. You just don’t.
And you don’t ever consider that a million people on Facebook and Twitter will try your parenting skills in the court of public opinion. Or that proud gun owners will make post after post about losing their rights, insisting that their right to bear arms is more valid than your right to grieve. Please exercise your First Amendment rights to campaign for the Second Amendment next week or next month. You have every right to wave your armory around like Yosemite Sam, but is it tactful to do it right now?
I understand that the “I would never let my kid…”comes from a place of fear, because senseless violence is unpredictable and terrifying. We feel defenseless against the madmen of the world. We are parents and we’re supposed to be able to protect our children, but crazy doesn’t factor into the equation. So we try to figure out “Why?” and when we find no answers, our only defense is to try and reassure ourselves that our choices would not lead us to become the victims in a tragedy. We hold our children close and say, “It would never be me because I…”
But it could be me. It could be you. And it could happen when you’ve made only a small mistake. And if it is you, I won’t judge you. Can you say the same if it was me?