As if there hadn’t been enough horror in Orlando this week, another tragic story emerged. A little boy, who was playing at the water’s edge of the lagoon that borders several Disney World hotels, was dragged to his death by an alligator.
When I saw the headline, I immediately clicked on a news story, and noticed the barrage of critical comments in regards to the parents. Some were critical that the parents had their kids out at 9:30pm. Others were critical that they let a toddler play in water. Others were outraged that they let their son wade in water that had “no swimming” signs posted. But the basic gist of the comments was that this tragedy was the fault of the parents. Some even suggested their other children been taken away from them.

Here’s a picture of my kids playing in the same Disney resort lagoon where this boy was attacked by an alligator. And yep – they waded into the water some too. As were a lot of other children. It is disheartening to know that should a tragedy have happened to my kids, there would be a public flogging of our family by the sancitmommies of the Internet.

It’s an interesting human phenomenon – this need to shame other parents in the wake of a tragedy. We want to assume ourselves above such a thing happening, but in doing so, we comfort ourselves and deny empathy to others.

It’s easy to throw other parents under the bus when something terrible happens because we want to believe ourselves better. We want to comfort ourselves with the idea that our superior parenting could prevent a tragedy. That bad things could only befall an incompetent parent, and if we are Competent Enough we are safe from harm. But the truth is, bad things happen to good parents, and they deserve our empathy, not our judgement.