That Could Have Been My Kid


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.










  1. I am right there with you. I have that child. I know things happen in a moments notice, oh my, do I know. But this does not appear to be that kind of situation. Every story you told included action on your part stopping your son from harming himself. The child in question didn’t just quickly disappear. He told his mother he was going to do it. She admonished him and then she obviously stopped paying attention until it was too late. If only my daughter gave me fair warning before she darted. We have the same kind of kid you and I. If your son told you he was going to climb in a gorilla enclosure would you ever take your eyes off of him? For even a second? If my daughter said that to me, we would head straight for the meerkats and never look back. My daughter would be in my arms, in a harness, in a stroller, or in a tight wrist grip. But you can bet I would not take my eyes off her until we were safely past that enclosure. I’m thinking you’d probably do the same. BTW what is too old for a harness? I always felt we would stop using the “puppy backpack” when we don’t need it anymore. And forget about the nasty looks. You leash your dog so he doesn’t get injured or lost, does your child deserve less?


    • My kid has grandiose ideas and I would probably assume that the gorilla enclosure was secure. The leash thing – he’s too big now, as in it doesn’t fit. The ones I’ve seen are all for toddlers – the straps won’t clip any more. He’s only 5, but he’s a big five! Ours is a puppy backpack too lol.


    • I know what it’s like to do everything you can think of to protect your child (my runner, in this case, but it could be any of my three children) and have it not be enough. I will never be the same after that horrible accident and neither will he.
      But it was just that: an accident. The truth is, your kids can surprise you even when you are the most vigilant parent on earth (we were more vigilant than any family I have ever known. Our friends laughed at our hyper vigilance. Until they weren’t laughing anymore.). Sadly, this means that I know from experience that I can’t ever say that I would not allow such a thing to happen. Accidents happen. I am an awesome mom who would also be booking it back to the meerkats, runner slung over my shoulder in a fireman’s carry, but the truth is, that might not be enough. Things happen. My heart breaks for this situation because not only do I know what it’s like to Not Do Enough, but I know what it’s like to have people point fingers and tell me I should have known better, to have social workers checking my story as I waited, hoping against all odds that my child would live, to have law enforcement interviewing my husband, refusing to let him come to the hospital to be with his (against all odds, alive, but he didn’t know that) child until they were “sure” that he wasn’t at fault. We’ll never know why the parent did what they did (or didn’t do), but I can say with certainty that It Could Have Been Me.


      • Please notice I did not point the finger at that mom or at any mom. I have a child who has no regard for her safety. None whatsoever. If my oldest told me she was going to do something dangerous I would tell her no and that would be the end of it. Not the same with my youngest. I would know in that moment to get her out of that situation as soon as possible. I felt as if this blogger and I share some of the same challenges with our kiddos. I was pointing out that this kid gave warning. I don’t know what that means for him or his mother. Maybe he isn’t a dare devil and normally listens, but had red dye #40 that day. But I felt that for myself and this poster, we would consider it a warning and heed it! I was attempting to show another mom that in fact this seems different and that maybe this is not something she needs to add to her already over concerned mind. It was an attempt at comforting. Obviously, not very well since you felt the need to share your story. Although, I’m glad you did. In truth any parent can find themselves in similar situations. None of us are immune from accidents and we need to keep that in mind. I am glad you son is ok.


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