Gorilla Parenting… (and our obsession with social media debates)

Last week, like so many others, I learned from social media most people are parenting experts… gorilla experts… or experts at parenting gorillas.


My 6th grader learned about Harambe and the 3 year old boy who fell into his enclosure, during one of her classes. Her brilliant teacher used the situation as a teaching moment, to set off discussion and debate. They watched a video, dialogued and shared opinions, and analyzed different angles of the situation, as all thoughtful 6th graders do.

That afternoon, she came home and we began to discuss. I had also watched a brief video of Harambe with the toddler. Our discussion continued and I reminded my kids… one version, one person, one angle never tells the whole story. Her main question was the thoughtful and reasonable question many have had – could Harambe have been tranquilized instead of killed? Was there a better way the situation could have been handled?

So. I gave my kids a few thoughtful ideas. A few of my briefly-perfect-parent / turned briefly-gorilla-expert opinions…

As a genuine disclaimer, I haven’t spent any time with gorillas at zoos, or in the wild recently… I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I do imagine, as many believe – gorillas display behavior, much like humans… we can not be sure what they will do when they are agitated or people are yelling around them? OR if they are shot by a tranquilizer… there is no guarantee they might not react uncontrollably and possibly freak out!?

The tranquilizer could have agitated Harambe – and when I am agitated I usually lose my mind. I don’t have a lot of patience when people are yelling around me, and I don’t think I’d handle stress any better if I had a been shot with a tranquilizer.

I have parented 3 monkeys for 12 years… When my kids are fighting they can lose their ability to act rationally within seconds. One minute they’ll be playing as best friends and the next minute, they lose their minds and start hitting one other.

It has been nearly 2 weeks since the death of Harambe and in my mind, one question is still ringing — Why did this story cause such national outrage and reaction? As with many questions, there are deeper questions to be answered…

Does your Cincinnati Zoo membership still have value …?  

And then there are the “What if?” questions… these cause the cycle of debate to go around and around…

What if… The parents were hoping their kid fell into the gorilla enclosure for attention. That’s sick, but okay. The parents need to talk to Jesus about that and find attention in healthier ways…

What if… The boy died or been seriously injured at the hands of Harambe? The zoo likely would have put Harambe to sleep.

What if… The zoo shot Harambe out to simply avoid being sued by the little boys parents?

What if… The zoo has had it out for Harambe and they were just waiting for their opportunity to take him out. Yep. That’s probably it.

What if… The zoo WANTED to kill one of their animals, which attracts VISITORS to their ZOO in order to see and make MONEY. Yes. This makes sense to me.

What if… Many are upset because they loathe zoos to begin with? They are not my favoirite spot to drag my kids to either, but my kids love animals. So as a loving parent, I buy the obligatory-yearly zoo membership.

Or. What if… the outcome would have been a Daniel in the Lions den turned ‘Toddler in the Gorilla enclosure’ miracle. That would have been amazing!



But these “What Ifs” don’t change anything. They keep us in the cycle of social media debate – myself included!

While it is a wonderful and marvelous world where we can share opinions and feelings on everything from gorillas, to parenting, to boycotting zoos and boycotting parents… accidents happen everyday. Decisions we make everyday as perfect parents and perfect gorilla experts affect those around us. We have to live with these decisions.

The ideal outcome would have been all lives saved. This goes back to the VALUE of LIFE ~ Human vs Animal life… The debate is now which LIFE has more value? #silverbacklivesmatter #toddlerlivesmatter…  the debate is now over these two and which life matters more. All life is valuable. Although it is sad Harambe was killed in this situation, a national debate was not needed. There are many other lives needing our protection and our attention, and many other unjust situations occurring right now across our nation, we could be spending time fighting for.

So while some are crying “Justice for Harambe!” or “Justice for better parenting!”, we are distracted by the debate. Let me know when your child falls into a gorilla pit because you weren’t watching or they were being curious. Let me know how that goes while you “wait and see” what might happen. Hopefully ALL lives are spared. Until then – peace out. Let’s let Jack Hannah -and the other zoo experts can handle the “little kids falling into Gorilla enclosure situations”.

Yes. RIP Harambe. Also. RIP our opinions… our inability to control… RIP our social media cycles of debate and distraction. There is a real world in need of our undivided attention. 



Go to Hell

I am, what some might refer to as, a hot head. 


Me, age 11 (bottom right) with my family at Knotts Berry Farm 🙂

My temper flares, my patience unravels, my emotions explode… and sometimes collateral damage is shed on those around me.  I am not a hot head, just for the hell of it. There is always a logical reason stirring beneath emotions which can lead to my eruptions. Sometimes I do fly off the handle for no reason, but most of the time, there is a completely logical reason, underlying the outbursts – I become enraged when it comes to acts of unfair treatment. My anger stems from my desire to see justice.

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer. Why? There were 3 reasons I was planning to go the law route, which made perfect sense to me: I was good at yelling, I was good at arguing and I had an overarching desire to see justice. In school, I loved studying, talking about, and writing reports on subjects like the Holocaust, racism and abortion. I enjoyed discussing why things in our history were wrong. Unjust. Should. not. have. happened (and should not be currently happening) Yes. I was a fun child to be around.

While ideas of what actually constitutes injustice might vary, even varying levels of injustice, my interpretation is from Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with Your God?” As a kid, and now as an adult, I desire to see justice. I desire to love kindness and to walk humbly with my God. All of these actions are forms of love we have a responsibility to live out as Christians. As a Christ follower, I have a life calling to do justice. 

I never became a lawyer, but I am still responsible for justice.  Growing up, I had no problem bringing the court into the playground and standing up for justice. Kids can be mean! I sensed a calling to be the playground policewoman. I placed myself on the stand as the judge, responsible for pounding the gavel and calling the bullies into order, and sentencing any unfair treatment my ears heard about or my eyes laid hold of… at school, on the playground, and at home.

One afternoon, my brother and I were playing in our front yard, creating sidewalk chalk masterpieces on our driveway. At the time, I was 11 years old and my brother was 9. Two of our neighbors, who were brothers, came over and began to bother us. They started throwing water balloons around our chalk artwork, and I told them to stop it. They did not stop and continued throwing the water balloons, each time nearing closer and closer to us, threatening to hit us with one of their balloons. It may appear as innocent water play, but their actions were not innocent. Unfortunately, we had a like/hate relationship with these brothers. Some days we could play together having a great time, and the next day, they would act like jerks and treat us like crap. Some days they were our best friends and other days they were our worst enemies. I knew that. They did not stop throwing the balloons, even though I had asked them kindly to do so.

So. I. Snapped. 


I yelled at the brothers and they ran home.

My brother and I ran inside to tell our mom what had just happened. Heavy breathing, holding back tears… we cried out to our mom, “It’s not fair! We were just playing, not bothering them. They wouldn’t leave us alone. I told them to go to hell!” Our mom, listened with understanding ears, and gently corrected my overreaction. “Perhaps, next time you come inside and ask me to help you before telling them to go to hell.”

A few moments later, <<<knock, knock, knock>>>. The brothers mother was at our front door. “Did your daughter just tell MY SONS to go to hell?” Yes. My mom calmly replied. She asked their mother, “Did your boys tell you what they were doing to my kids first?” That shut her up. My mom was fully aware of our on again/off again friends/enemies relationship with the brothers. She knew how they sometimes treated us. She was proud of us for standing up for justice on the driveway.

Today I still desire to stand up for justice. It is at the core of my every longing, intertwined with my very being. The injustice in this world is daunting. My heart cries out for all forms of injustice of every form, especially the injustice which takes shape as modern-day slavery and sexual trafficking. Anyone can google statistics on these subjects and become informed. The more information we know, the more we become aware of the level of injustice happening today. The more we are aware, the more we can intercede and pray. The more we intercede and pray, God will show us how and where to respond.

I have asked the Lord, “Why won’t You just eradicate slavery and human trafficking?” You can end it with a miracle. I believe these are the most unjust forms of behavior in our world today. And I believe God is eradicating this injustice, through His people. There are many amazing organizations praying, working and rescuing. One of the most life changing documentaries you can see on this subject is Nefarious: Merchant of Souls. Warning: it is not for the faint of heart and it will change your life.

So I asked the Lord, “Why?” and His answer has come in many ways – through His people. God is asking me, He is asking us, ‘Who and what are we fighting for today? Who and what are we defending today?’ We are all called to do something. I believe it is time we stand up, take notice, become informed and become the everyday justice police in our families, on the playgrounds, in our communities, and in our world. It is time to tell human trafficking to “Go to Hell!” We must respond to the call – As a Christ follower, I have a life calling to do justice.

In Him, Leslie

*You may disagree with my “Go to Hell!” approach for a start to calling out injustice. What’s Yours?