My mother is an excellent mother. She supported every endeavor I ever undertook, whether that meant driving three hours to watch me hurdle for 16 seconds or flying up the eastern seaboard to listen to me perform poetry. When I messed up she was quick to make sure that I knew exactly what I had done wrong and that I didn’t do it again (something that is still true to this day). She always paid incredibly close attention to me and my whereabouts, to the point that whenever I was out at night, she was literally incapable of falling asleep before I came home, no matter how late that was. She was as careful and watchful as a mother could possibly be, and did everything she could to give me a safe and happy childhood. She did a damn good job.
But my mother still lost me once. It was in Disney, a place that must be every parent’s worst nightmare, and the site of another recent parenting tragedy. My family was in a restaurant, my brother and I sandwiched securely between my parents as they closed out the bill with their waitress. In that minor moment of distraction, three-year-old Alex slid out of his his seat and walked away under the table, unnoticed. The moment my parents realized what had happened, they locked down the entire restaurant, turning it inside out to search for me. My mother, despite the assurances of the restaurant staff that I couldn't have exited the building in so short a time, was sure that I had left and stepped outside to look for me. It took her less than a minute to find me, staring enraptured at a juggler. For the rest of the vacation I slept in the same bed as her, and was never more than a few feet from her side. Today we laugh about it, this near brush with disaster.
But here's the thing that worries me. If, god forbid, some villain had snatched me up in those thirty seconds and stolen me away, it would have destroyed her. She would have blamed herself for the rest of her life, wondering how she could have possibly let me out of her sight for long enough to lose me forever. And if that had happened today, she wouldn’t have been alone in blaming herself. A legion of keyboard crusaders would have taken to the comments sections of news articles and lambasted her over and over, labelling her a “bad mother” or a “neglectful parent” and righteously proclaiming that they “never would have let that happen to my child.” Instead of trying to understand the horrific pain she was feeling or comfort her in her darkest hour, they would heap abuse on her
My mother is an excellent mother. But even she is capable of losing track of her child for a split second, and sometimes tragedies occur in less time than it takes to blink. For a legion of parents to viciously attack a grieving mother they don’t even know is cruel, judgmental to a disgusting extreme, and flat out wrong. The worst things can happen to the best people, and there’s no excuse for ignoring this in order to throw vitriol at a woman who’s just lost a child. All it does is heap more pain on a person already feeling the worst a human can feel. So maybe next time the unthinkable happens to a child, we shouldn't rush to judge, and instead remember that that child could have been any one of us. That mother could have been our own mother. What would you be willing to say to her?
With excitement and optimism,