Tragic story offers painful lessons about parenting

Published 10:24 am Thursday, June 2, 2016

Some stories in life have no true happy endings, only heart-wrenching lessons to be learned.

That was certainly the case last Saturday at the Cincinnati Zoo when a 4-year-old boy managed to climb into the habitat of a 17-year-old silverback gorilla named Harambe.

By now most everyone has seen or read about the outcome, which can only be called tragic.

Officials acted quickly and decisively, shooting the 450-pound gorilla and potentially saving the child’s life.

But that ending was really only just the beginning of this story.

The finger pointing and blame game has heated up in recent days. Everyone has their own perspective: The parents should have kept a closer eye on their child. The zoo should have had better enclosures. Other measures — like a tranquilizer gun — should have been utilized before killing this endangered animal.

All of these may be true, but the most important part is what we can learn from this situation.

As a region that has multiple zoos within just a short drive, this story hit home for many here in Michiana. But we also cannot forget the countless other potentially dangerous places children visit regularly including the beach, the playground, airports, shopping malls, sports arenas and even their own front yards.

Are the parents to blame in this situation? It’s impossible to say but all parents have a responsibility to watch their children closely.

Many people have offered suggestions they believe would have prevented this tragedy including what amounts to “leash laws” for children in places like zoos and for more restrictive animal enclosures. But neither of those would truly solve the issue of inattentive parents or a child trying to get somewhere he or she should not.

It starts with discipline and teaching children how to act but, in the end, constant vigilance is the only solution. And that sort of focus doesn’t take a break to text, answer the telephone, chat with a friend or anything else when a child is in a potentially dangerous environment.

It is 24-seven, 365-days-a-year job.

Is it difficult? Of course, but that’s what we sign up for when we become parents.


Michael Caldwell is the publisher of Leader Publications LLC. He can be reached at (269) 687-7700 or by email at