A Lesson in Compassion

Posted on | May 2, 2013 | 12 Comments

One time, when my son was only a bit younger, I took a shower and left him playing quietly with his toys.  I didn’t really think too much about it: I’m a single mom, I have to shower, and cages are frowned upon. It was only when I was out and dressed that I realized I’d left the sharp knife I was using to cut onions right there on the table where he could have easily grabbed it.

To say that I freaked out is, well, an understatement.  I had a nervous breakdown over what a crappy mom I am and how I didn’t deserve to have a child as wonderful as mine.  I was one month post divorce. I was a wreck and I hugged my child until he squirmed. And you bet your ass I have never left a knife anywhere near close to reach ever again.

My point?

We make mistakes as parents.

We make tons of mistakes.

And if we’re lucky, if the cards are aligned and the gods are smiling, we don’t pay for our mistakes with the unthinkable.

Some parents are not that lucky.  Some parents make the same mistakes and lose their babies. And the thing is, it’s EASY to set those parents aside and say “Not me, not my kid.” It’s easy to widen your eyes and open your mouth and gasp “A knife where a toddler could reach it? WHO IS THAT STUPID? WHY ARE THEY ALLOWED TO BREED?” It’s easy to get up on your high horse and shake your head and say “No. How incompetent.” But you know what that is? That’s no different than saying “I breastfeed therefore I’m better” or “I homeschool, you crappy public school parent,” or even “All organic, bitches!” It’s the parent-wars at their worst… nothing more than a snide “My child is alive and healthy and yours isn’t. SUCK IT.”  And really? That’s not who we should be striving to be. It’s easy to judge; easy to separate yourself and say “that can’t happen to me.”  It’s a lot more difficult to set that aside and just embrace people who are hurting… realizing that next time, it could be you and praying so fervently that it won’t be.

A Facebook friend posted a link to the story about the Kentucky parents who lost their two year old daughter after their five year old son shot her.  The story indicated the boy received a gun for his fifth birthday.

And yeah, okay, my first instinct, like yours and like the dozens of people who commented on her link, is one of abject horror. A gun? At FIVE? But I don’t live where they do. I don’t walk in their shoes, or experience life through their eyes. I don’t know if they live in a suburb or on a vast acreage of farmland. I don’t know anything at all about those parents except that someone, maybe them, gave their five year old a gun for his birthday.  I’m not a hunter and I don’t do guns. But I know loads of people who do because, hello, I live in Georgia.  I know that a lot of six and seven year old kids go hunting with their fathers and maybe some five year old kids, too.  And I know that those aren’t god awful parents who neglect their children… they’re people who grew up around guns and who are trying to instill a love of hunting in their children.

Again… I don’t get it. I’m vegetarian. Bambi makes me cry. Guns make me nervous.

But you won’t find me judging those parents for losing a child because it could have been me, or you, or any number of other people.  Ever left your car keys somewhere your kids could reach them? Ever left a blender out unattended and plugged in? Ever left your child unattended in reach of something that could scald the skin off his poor frame? If I were taking bets, I’d say yes.

Because we’re not perfect. We’re parents.  We’re sleep-deprived, coffee-starved people trying our damnedest not to screw up and lose the people most precious to us.

And sometimes we do.

This week, two parents in Kentucky screwed up.  And if you think for one minute that they need YOU to tell them that, I’d venture a guess that you are sorely mistaken. I don’t know their truth.  Maybe they have a safe and guns are always, always, always locked up and unloaded… except for once.  Maybe they don’t.  I don’t know and neither do you.

So to those parents, all I can say is this… I am so sorry for your loss.  For the loss of your daughter, for the loss of your son’s innocence, and for the loss of your ability to grieve privately.  For what little it is worth, I am grieving with you.






12 Responses to “A Lesson in Compassion”

  1. Lisa
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 9:12 am

    As usual, well said. My heart hurts for them.

  2. Law Momma
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 9:19 am

    It’s such an awful reality they are trapped in. Just awful.

  3. smithe24
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 10:07 am

    Agree it is such a tragic story for the parents and also especially for that little boy that has to live his whole life carrying this around. My heart breaks for them.

  4. Law Momma
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 10:45 am

    I know… the guilt for all of them must be so overwhelming.

  5. Jess
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 10:30 am

    Wow. I live under a rock and hadn’t seen that story. But holy crap. On top of the tragedy to have to field all the insults and comments from strangers, that is horrible.

    But you’re right. Even on a more superficial level we have to stop comparing ourselves to others. We have to let others’ opinions influence us. We need to support each other as a community.

  6. Law Momma
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 10:45 am

    So so so true.

  7. Carrie
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 11:57 am

    Such true words! Thank you for writing this, such a breath of fresh air! I wish I could give hugs to those parents right now.

  8. Law Momma
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 11:58 am

    You and me both, sister.

  9. BipolarMom (Jenn)
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 5:52 pm

    I am so sad for this family. I appreciate and admire how you approached writing this piece. You are so right – there is no such thing as a perfect parent. I just wish there were some mistakes we could learn from without having to grieve a loss as heavy and unthinkable as the death of a child.

  10. Law Momma
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 10:13 pm

    I know. It’s an ugly situation any way you look at it…

  11. Cathy
    May 3rd, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

    Wow. I didn’t read the article. Saw the headline and never read the story. Strange that we just discussed this the other day. Yes, I was a shotgun owner at 5. Wow. So, so sad. 🙁

  12. pinkflipflops44
    May 4th, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

    Ugh that poor kid.

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    Spilled Milk (and Other Atrocities) by Law Momma is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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