05/31/2016 02:52 pm ET Updated Jun 01, 2017

The Cincinnati Zoo Incident Makes Me Wonder What Happened to the Village

William Philpott / Reuters

Before I became a parent, I pretty much knew everything required to raise well-behaved and respectful children. Screen time at a restaurant? Capri Suns? Meltdowns in aisle three? No way. They'd never see the golden arches and would use manners from birth if I had it my way.

And then I became a parent, and realized, of course, that I knew NOTHING. I'd spent all this time and energy planning an approach that just wasn't realistic. Because as any parent knows, there are never any absolutes in child-rearing. The minute you say you won't do something, fate decides otherwise and makes you recant on that exact commitment. And at the end of the day, we DO OUR BEST.

Last Wednesday, I took our girls to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden with another friend and her two daughters. This is the same zoo where Harambe, the gorilla, was shot after a 4-year-old boy fell into his enclosure.

Just months older than the boy at the focus of the story, my friend's daughter is an extremely spirited and adventurous child. And despite both of our diligence, she managed to run out of our immediate sight more than once. She was there and then seconds later -- gone. I did a 360 scan and saw her climbing up a rock wall, trying to get a closer look at the nesting flamingos. My heart stopped, her mom frantically called for her to get down, and she did. But who knows what could have happened had we not seen her?

The event that took place at the Cincinnati Zoo is awful. It's incited some seriously strong emotions from all over the world. And whether or not the zoo took the correct action is not for me to weigh in on -- I don't know how quickly tranquilizers work, whether or not Harambe was acting erratically or if another measure could have been taken. What I do know is that the subsequent backlash against the mother who "let" her child into the enclosure is almost more heartbreaking than the situation at hand. What kind of parent lets their child out of their sight for a second?

Just a few of the thousands of comments people have relentlessly cast into public forums:

  • "These parents should not be able to breed again."
  • "They should have thrown the negligent parents into the enclosure as a distraction while they rescued the kid, and let natural selection take its course."
  • "Kill the parent not the gorilla."

They say it takes a village to raise a child. But in this situation, a mother (who was reportedly carrying an infant) lost sight of her toddler and now there's an outcry of people calling for "justice." Some are calling for jail; you may have seen an online petition with more than 350,000 signatures seeking "justice for Harambe." Some say the child's mother should pay for replacing the gorilla. Or that she should stop breeding. And in way too many posts, comments that SHE should die.

REALLY? Where's the village, people? She didn't intentionally drop her child into the enclosure. She lost sight of her toddler and a terrible chain of events ensued. It's a screw-up, sure, but it's a screw-up to which most moms can relate. A screw-up that certainly doesn't merit the public shaming and ridicule she's subsequently endured.

Is it possible we could stop casting judgments for long enough to offer her some compassion after enduring an extremely scary situation? And realize that possibly, just possibly, she was doing just what the majority of us do when raising kids -- our best?

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