Current Events Parenting

Our instinct to blame needs to give way to an openness to experiencing others’ pain.

June 17, 2016

Since the horrible, heartbreaking incident in which 2-year-old Lane Graves was killed by an alligator that pulled him into the lagoon adjacent to a Walt Disney World resort hotel around 9 pm on Tuesday night, a lot of people have been asking questions. Questions like “what kind of parents let their child swim in a lagoon in the dark when no swimming signs are posted??” And “Where were the parents when this happened?!” Or this gem “Why wasn’t this boy in bed asleep it was after 9 pm!” So, what kind of parent would have their 2-year-old child awake past 9 pm and allow them to stand on the literal edge of the shoreline where the water meets sand while standing mere feet away? This mom would. And I bet I’m not alone. There were no swimming signs, yes. And people should be aware that alligators are present in any body of fresh water in the south, yes. Does that mean that we should all be unsurprised when an alligator swims up and drags a small child into the water? No, I’m pretty sure that still qualifies as shocking, rare, and horrifying. And instead of protecting our own delicate psyches from having to deal with even the mere thought that something so horrendous could happen to any of us by heaping blame on the parents, we should allow ourselves to be vulnerable to contemplating that pain.

Our need to feel safe from these horrible things that we read about with seemingly increasing frequency needs to stop taking precedence over the right of those experiencing unimaginable grief to not be blamed for their pain. I understand the impulse, I do. We desperately want to believe that something could have been done differently. That somehow a misstep was made somewhere and *that* is what caused this, because otherwise accepting that accidents happen and life can be cruel is somehow too much to bear.

Lane Graves was a beautiful little soul, and his family loved him so much. Protecting ourselves from theoretical emotional distress doesn’t make it acceptable to call that love and care into question. We should let ourselves be open to experiencing the vulnerability that comes with accepting the fact that horrific things sometimes happen, even to good parents, to loving parents–and we should be ready to support each other when they do.

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