I can’t even read them. Those harsh, accusatory, squinty-eyed comments that people left everywhere when a baby boy was drug away and killed before his daddy’s eyes. When a little boy fell into a cage with a dangerous beast, or even when a boy accientally knocked over a Lego sculpture. (That last one is so pathetic, it’s not worth talking about.)
They say the parents weren’t watching, weren’t being responsible, hadn’t taught their kids a thing about obedience, not touching, not reading signs, and on and on. Seriously??
You know what? I was that terrible parent.
That was me.
I had a baby boy who drowned.
He was 2 years old.
I wasn’t watching him 100% of the time, and there you go – 5 minutes later he was being swept downstream in a current so strong an adult could barely stand up. I know because it was only the adrenalin coursing through my body that gave me the strength to stand up, hanging onto a tree branch for support, feeling around the creek-bottom with my stocking feet, screaming and crying into the wind.
A huge burden of guilt came crashing down on my back the minute I realized it wasn’t going to end well. I couldn’t look my husband in the eyes for hours. I didn’t blame the Deputy who was over-zealous in examining me and my parenting. I heard the cold accusations through his standard questions: “Didn’t you know that creek was dangerous? Do you normally allow your kids to play outside unsupervised?”
I wearily answered him, just wanting him to leave so I could flop onto my bed and cry my heart out. (He later was reprimanded by his superiors for his uncaring method of questioning.) I didn’t care. I knew he was right; I had let my baby play outside alone. For 5 minutes while I started lunch. His lunch – hotdogs. There is something exquisitely painful about putting hotdogs into a pan to heat, and an hour later serving them to 2 children instead of 3.
Do you know what it feels like to be having a wonderful, happy day, then to be plunged into the worst living nightmare? And to know it is your fault? You can’t blame anyone else. And you feel like everyone is blaming you, even when they don’t say it?
I am so thankful I have loving, caring friends and family who never blamed or shamed me. They encouraged, prayed, cried, and hugged. But they never said the obvious: “Why DID you let him play outside when you knew that canal was a mere 100 feet from your door?”
My husband could’ve allowed it to make him bitter at me, but he didn’t. He worked through his own struggles without blaming me.
Jesus has healed me from the pain, set me free from the guilt, and is teaching me to shut my ears to the Devil’s accusations. He can heal you too, if you are struggling with something similar. Jesus is the Great Healer!
I wonder how many of the name-callers on social media these days have ever been responsible for a small child 24/7? Do they know how fast a toddler can scale a fence or run toward a croc-infested lake? Have they ever searched for a missing child with their heart in their throat, screaming wild-eyed, and cold with adrenaline?
If they have, how could they possibly be so cruel? As soon as I heard of the croc story, my heart went to those parents, especially the mother. She is the one who will live with the guilt long after the world has forgotten about them. She will go to bed with red eyes for weeks. She will find a random missed sock in the laundry and break down all over again. And the father… he will question every move and replay that scene over and over. He will wonder why he wasn’t just a bit faster, a bit stronger. He will cry in the shower and when he is driving alone to work.
I don’t know the details of the story. No one does, really, except the ones on the scene. I know that more signs or a gator round-up isn’t the answer. That may prevent some tragedies and that’s great. But the thing is; hard, painful, searing things happen. And when they do, we need to rally around each other with love and prayer and hugs and tears. We can grow that way. This condemning and criticizing is killing our souls and our country.
I have no words of judgment. How can I?
That terrible parent was me, once.
Can we learn, somehow, to love and support each other even when they make mistakes or – gasp – have an accident? We all, ALL do stupid things. Some of us get away with it and no one knows. Some of us pay dearly for our mistakes.
Walk a mile in their moccasins. Love like Jesus. Practice the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. And if that’s too hard to do, at least take your mother’s advice and ‘be quiet if you don’t have anything good to say’.
Read my story here: Andy