The, "Zoo Mom", Could Have Been Me

Tina McGrevy by Tina McGrevy Additional Needs

Tina McGrevy

Tina McGrevy

Tina McGrevy lives in the Midwest with her husband Charlie and their three sons: Garrett diagnosed in 2001 with Smith-Magenis Syndrome (SMS), Patri...

One thing the entire world seems to agree on is that the mother of the four-year-old boy should be publicly shamed, sued…maybe even stoned…because she, “let”, him climb through the barrier and fall into that moat.

I don’t know if the father was there, but we know she was because her voice is on the video; comforting her son and telling him that he will be okay. 

It seems; at least from the opinion of the Armchair Zoologists, that her voice was only agitating Harambe. 

Although I have never met her, I know who she is. On another day, she would have been me.

My oldest son, Garrett, was born with Smith-Magenis syndrome (SMS).

He has a long list of developmental disabilities: low muscle tone, intellectual disabilities and self-injurious behaviors.

And he has gotten away from me.  In public places and at home. More than once and for long periods of time.

When he was seven years old, Garrett got out of bed in the middle of the night, opened our front door and left.

Although Garrett was not in any danger of Western lowland silverback gorillas, our area has a high number of coyotes.

We can hear them from our house at night.

Luckily, our neighbor leaves for work at this time and brought Garrett home.

My husband and I were terrified that Garrett would try to get out of the house again.

We needed an alarm system, but it would take us a long time to save for one.

A few days later, our minister informed us that someone from our church had donated the cost of the installation and the first three months of coverage.

That alarm saved Garrett a total of three times.

It wasn’t only while I was sleeping that I failed to protect my son. The day he jumped out of a second story window I was in the kitchen.

I thought he was watching television in the next room until I heard him land on the concrete sidewalk.

That accident ended with one ambulance ride and eleven stitches.

And he was missing for twenty minutes at the Children’s Museum. We stood outside the play house door, not realizing that there was a second exit until he was long gone.

I don’t know the child from the zoo, but I assume that he is a typical four-year-old.

I have two other boys and I have failed them as well. It’s not just the extra vigilance of a special needs child that is impossible to monitor every single second of the day.

The outrage is because a beautiful, endangered gorilla has been killed but the mother brought her children to see these animals. Surely she cares about Harambe, too.

And I imagine she blames herself.

But, I cannot imagine how she feels knowing that the entire world blames her as well.

Although I have never met her, I know who she is. On another day, she would have been me.


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