I am a mom. I am that mom.
I have four kids just a few years apart and my oldest has autism. I have managed to lose each of them at different times for varying amounts of time.
When we lived in the city my son, a ball of pent up energy, would race ahead of me on his scooter while I ran to catch up pushing his sister in her stroller, screaming for him to slow down, to wait for me, to stay within, if not my reach, at least my sight. I'd hold my breath when he turned the corner for his preschool and the few moments I could not see him. Should he have been abducted in the time it took me to turn the corner, it would have been my fault.
My oldest, my daughter, the one with autism, tends to wander. In many ways she thinks like a preschooler. She is distracted and fascinated by escalators, books and animals, a live gorilla she would want to touch and to hug.
I have lost her in the city. I have lost her in the country. I have lost her in my own home. It was never my intention to lose her. I lost my mind every time I did. During a family gathering when I thought she was upstairs reading, a friend found her sitting in the middle of the road in front of our house. Had something happened to her in any of those locations, it would have been my fault.
The level of venom and vitriol unleashed at this woman, at this mom blows my mind. I wonder if her critics realize that she did not arrive at the zoo that morning, a bevy of kids in tow, with the intent to kill. Have they somehow mistaken her for someone on safari tracking, shooting and posing with the carcasses of an endangered species? Don't they understand that she was trying to occupy her kids for a few hours on a long weekend and how much easier it would have been to stay home and sit them in front of the TV?
I wonder if her critics have ever tried to corral a group of young children. I wonder if they know that often they move in opposite directions or simultaneously drop their ice cream and need their shoes tied. I wonder if they know that sometimes kids don't listen, sometimes they whine and cry and fight and distract you from yourself.
I wonder if they know that sometimes they shake loose and run away further than you can see. I wonder if they know the terror that strikes when they are out of sight.
I wonder if her critics have ever loved someone who cannot care for themselves - someone whose happiness, safety and life depends on you. I wonder if they've ever fallen short on that bargain and if they know what that feels like.
And I wonder what they would sanction to get that person back.