I’ve watched the story of the Cincinnati Zoo incident unfold and the subsequent furor and honestly, it makes me feel sick. Not because a gorilla died, although that is certainly a sad thing, and not because of whatever neglect or negligence the outraged community is accusing the parents of.
No, I feel sick because that could have been us. Could still be us.
One of our biggest struggles is the Engineer’s impulse control issue. His world is quite literally I think therefore I do. That’s usually ok if we’re home (fine, it’s not ok because little siblings keep getting the brunt of it) but if we go out it can literally be life threatening.
The time where I turned to grab his sister’s hand before she ran off, and when I turned around he had run outside straight into the parking lot because he wanted to play in the snow.
The time he bolted in the mall and I tried to catch him – and missed – and was flat-out running at 8 months pregnant in full panic mode as I watched him run up to a random stranger, take his hand, and start walking away from me. Thankfully the guy was a father himself and turned my stray child around and brought him back to me.
The time where he climbed a fence at the zoo and I grabbed his pants just before he toppled over. It was the prairie dog enclosure or we might have been in the news too.
The time he decided to ride his scooter around the block without permission and his little brother followed him – into a road – before I could catch up to them. And trust me, I can run FAST when I have to.
2 seconds. That’s all it takes for him to get into a life-threatening situation. I have two smaller children to watch too and I can only run so fast. I’m one of the most alert, hovering parents I know because I know what he’s capable of, and he still gets past me.
We tried those little harnesses (and endured the comments and nasty looks) but he’s too old for that now. We’ve tried logic, rules, punishments, you name it: nothing works. He simply can’t reason and think beyond “I want X right now!”
I know some people will read this and say my kid is undisciplined, a selfish brat, or a bad kid. Others will read it and say I’m a helicopter parent and I need to lighten up and give him some freedom. Some of you will read it and say “I’m right there with you!”
I know this is a polarizing story, but stop for one moment and think: what if the kid in the news was like mine with special needs? What if, despite doing everything right, everything went completely wrong?
At the end of the day, all I can do is my absolute best to keep him (and everyone else) safe, and pray that that’s enough. And I have nightmares about the day it’s not.