Parental Neglect; Gift Ideas for a 9-Year-Old Boy

I heard on the radio that people are taking time out of their busy lives to circulate a petition saying that the mother whose child got into the gorilla cage should be prosecuted for child neglect. Man. I don’t think this is a precedent we want to set. I’m picturing a lonnnnnnnng line of parents, all of us with our ankles joined by chains to the parents in front and behind us, our children sent to foster homes where they will be just as “neglected” because NO HUMAN PERSON CAN HAVE THEIR HANDS AND EYES ON ALL OF THEIR CHILDREN EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND HIS POOR NEGLECTED BABY JESUS.

A terrible thing happened with terrible results, and now this poor mom is in a nightmare—in addition, of course, to the nightmare of forever reliving that moment when she saw her child IN THE CAGE WITH THE GORILLA. As if a public stoning (if they can find anyone, ANYONE AT ALL who is qualified to throw the first stone) will change even one single thing about the terrible thing that happened. I wonder if there is a “I am so sorry this is all happening to you right now, and there but for the luck of the draw would be EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US” petition?


Today is my youngest child’s birthday, and he is 9, so if you are one of the people I first met when I was pregnant with Henry, that’s a pretty convenient way to measure the length of our friendship. Don’t tell Henry, but this is what he’s getting:

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Nerf N-Strike Elite Precision Target Set. This is from my parents.


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7Seventoys Elite Tactical Vest Kit. Also from my parents. Incidentally, if you are considering purchasing, it is worth noting that it does not come with the accessories shown. They say so in the description, but you could be forgiven for thinking that what was in the picture was what came with something called a “kit.” Instead it is the vest plus a skull mask. (I quietly disposed of the skull mask. Ick.)


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He wanted a “BIG set of colored pencils, like A HUNDRED AND TWENTY!!” I found such a set, but the reviews fell into two categories: (1) Ravingly wonderful and not a verified purchase, and (2) “Awful and broken and hard to use” and a verified purchase. So! Instead I got him the 24-pack of Prismacolor colored pencils in the cheaper student version so he can try them out (the listing currently says it’s a 10-pack of markers, but no, it is a 24-pack of pencils as shown), plus the 50-pack of Crayola colored pencils, plus a colored-pencil sharpener, plus a pencil box for him to theoretically keep the pencils in instead of losing them all over the house (I chose that particular box because a reviewer said it had room for over 200 pencils in it, but it’s a fairly ordinary pencil box).


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Cuddlekins walrus. This is the snuggliest, softest, nicest stuffed walrus ever. This is the FOURTH time I have bought it, and the second for Henry. I originally bought him one when he was maybe three or four, and we have lost that one; then Elizabeth wanted one, and then Edward wanted one, and then I gave up on finding the original one and Henry will get a new one for his birthday. Also, they sell this same stuffed walrus at aquarium gift shops for about twice the price.


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Gumballs. Not these very ones—I found fancier ones in a jar at HomeGoods. About two Christmases ago, I needed one more gift for Henry and couldn’t think of ANYTHING, so out of desperation I bought him a jar of gumballs—and it was like his favorite gift of all time and he still mentions it. So we’re going to milk that idea forever.


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Undertale t-shirt. This is my least favorite thing that we bought him, but will probably tie with the gumballs for his favorite gift. Are you familiar with this dumb game? It’s called Undertale. The derp-clown on this t-shirt is apparently called Papyrus. The shirt is overpriced. I don’t like anything about this except that Henry will like it.

34 thoughts on “Parental Neglect; Gift Ideas for a 9-Year-Old Boy

  1. Auntie G

    I have a WIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDE circle of FB friends, and gorilla posts (possibly even more than political posts) are making me reconsider many, many things about this circle of friends. I 100% share your feelings about the whole sad gorilla/toddler nightmare. Ugh, humanity.

  2. Elizabeth

    I think there should be a major push to let people know that no court would convict them of child molestation if they grabbed a toddler they saw climbing over a fence into a zoo exhibit by the foot and pulled them back to safety, just as no court would convict them of damaging an auto by breaking a window to save a child left in a parked car on a sunny day. Also, we should try very hard to teach people common sense, such as not screaming when they see a kid fall into an animal exhibit. Apparently, the screaming helped discombobulate the poor gorilla (and who knows, maybe it kept him from hearing his keepers calling him to come in, too).
    Although I believe it was necessary to kill the gorilla to save the child, it irks me when people go on about him being “just an animal”, when great apes are our closest living relatives. All the other human species that have ever existed are extinct (possibly thanks to us in many cases), and we’ve driven all the great apes either to extinction or to being endangered. Heck, we’re even still killing each other all over the world. It’s time to realize that we are not really living up to our full potential.

    1. Lindsay

      I also thought about the crowd screaming as potentially contributing to the situation. Glad the boy is ok.

  3. Squirrel Bait

    I’ve been thinking about this prosecution of parents thing a lot lately because I have been listening to the second season of Breakdown, which is a podcast from the Atlanata Journal Star about the hot car death of a toddler a couple of years ago. It seems likely a jury will convict the father because he is a dirtbag husband, not because there is any hard evidence that he intentionally planned to harm his son. People seem quick to condemn him because it reinforces their own sense that they could never, ever let anything like that happen since they are good parents so therefore he must obviously be a bad parent. And yet any time a toddler finds a handgun and kills him/herself or others, nobody is held accountable for the “tragic accident.”

    1. rbelle

      I got into pretty much my only Facebook fight ever with another mom friend over that case two summers ago. At the time, it had just happened, so the assumption was still that it had been an accident. And I was pretty adamant that it could happen to anyone, and she just could not imagine it, even after I pointed her to a long-form article that discussed several cases of kids in hot cars and interviewed several experts on memory, ultimately making a very convincing case that neglectful parenting has nothing to do with this type of accident (except, obviously, in cases where parents leave their kids in the car on purpose while they go shop or gamble or whatever). People really, really want to believe themselves immune to bad things happening.

      1. Trudee

        I have to admit that before I had my daughter (a year and a half ago), I was more on the judge-y side of this. I mean how could anyone not remember the child is in the back?! I couldn’t fathom it. And then I had my daughter and experienced the most horrific sleep deprivation. And I thought … that. That is how. Luckily, I live in Canada and we have the option of up to 1 year maternity leave, but I know a lot of Americans get only about 6 weeks. If I’d had to go back to work after 6 weeks, given the state I was in at that time in my leave, I could see something like that happening.

  4. Shawna

    Thank goodness there are still sane people in the world like you that do not call for the blood of parents every time there’s a child injured. Accidents happen, and they are terrible and tragic, but they are ACCIDENTS, and the vast majority of the time parents are not being stupid and tempting fate to hurt their kid and accidents can happen to anyone. ANYONE! People need to SIMMER DOWN. This whole thing makes me feel very shouty. There but for the grace, etc.

  5. Monica

    YES. I am in a lot of “moms groups” on Facebook and all anyone is talking about is this gorilla incident. There are a few people saying things like “it could happen to anyone, no one can possibly have eyes on their kids every second of every day” but they are quickly drowned out by the perfect parents who have their eyes glued to their child and never do anything else except look at their child. I’m so fed up. It’s an awful thing that happened, but it happened, it’s done, and now everybody needs to move on and leave that poor mother alone.

    Also completely agree with the previous commenter who mentioned that no one seems to mind when children/toddlers find loaded guns and fire them at people (or themselves). To me THAT is far more inexcusable than a kid managing to get into an animal enclosure.

  6. Gigi

    As if we don’t have other things to be outraged about. People are quick to point fingers and make accusations all while feeling morally superior – although they themselves are not perfect, no matter what they think.

  7. Teej

    Yes. This. I need to share this post with my husband who was giving me the hairy eye this morning (“you don’t sufficiently supervise our kids?!”) when I was trying to articulate this idea, but not as well.

  8. Rebecca

    Love that Henry is getting a stuffed walrus. My 10 year old son still clamors for soft cuddly stuffies and my husband has started to raise his eyebrow at that. Me? I’ll buy him stuffies forever although I’m fairly sure he will lose interest one of these teenage years. Until then, cuddle away!

  9. Dr. Maureen

    Interesting you should mention baby Jesus, because Jesus himself was once lost by his parents, The Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. Two saints lost their child. Actual saints. (I personally believe that story was included in the bible to make the rest of us feel better when we inevitably misplace our children.)

    But you might also like to hear that I have not seen any firsthand posts or comments by people vilifying these parents, so it seems that some circles do exist that are made of people with common sense and empathy. Or it may mean that I don’t visit FaceBook very much, which is also true.

    1. Rachel

      YES! I’m going to look up that scripture and then run around facebook, just posting it EVERYWHERE!

    2. Jmv

      Totally stole this idea for a fb post. Thank you. The self righteous posts are killing me

  10. Nowheymama

    Wow–happy ninth birthday, Henry!

    Yes, I really do not care for the meme circulating that refers to the mom as a B-word. That adds an extra layer of grossness to the entire terrible event and the reactions to it.

    1. Swistle Post author

      YES. That is the one that pushed me right over the edge. Posted by a relative of mine who does not have children.

  11. Celeste

    There’s a reason you take your kids to the zoo to see animals rather than, say, the Congo. You have this idea that it’s safe. I was just saying to another mom that I wonder if the zoo had done better engineering to keep the (large) animal in, rather than to keep the (small) children out. The news stories have links to videos about animals seeing kids through glass, and pawing or charging and actually breaking the glass. The captions say to teach kids not to act teasingly towards the animals. But is the presence of a baby teasing? Maybe we really need to re-evaluate how close we can get to animals at zoos. I think those are the discussions we should be having, not how best to criminalize a traumatized mother.

    1. rbelle

      I was actually impressed to hear that the first reaction from PETA was to blame the zoo for not having a double wall (or something like that, I don’t know zoo life).

  12. nonsoccermom

    Wow, I started reading your blog when you were pregnant with Henry! I’ve been a low-commenting lurkery type for quite a while. :-)

    Totally agree re: this gorilla thing. Kids are fast and sneaky and it literally only takes one hot second for them to disappear off our radars. What parent hasn’t had that moment of panic when they realize the child is not where they expected? My mom STILL talks about the time I wandered away from her in Service Merchandise, and that was 35 years ago!

  13. The Awktopus

    The thing that bothers me the most about this situation is that NONE of us were actually there, so no one knows what happened. It’s within the realm of possibility that this could have been an instance of child neglect, but it’s also very, very likely that the woman is a completely attentive parent who just happened to turn her back at the worst possible time. Since I don’t know the woman and I didn’t see the incident, I’m going to assume the latter, more likely scenario. Unless you were actually, physically there at the time and you saw what happened with your own eyes, then you don’t know any better than I do whether or not the woman was neglecting her child. (And even then I’d be skeptical, since eyewitness accounts have been proven to be unreliable.)

  14. Elisabeth

    Swistle, I would sign YOUR petition in a heartbeat. Little kids are crazy fast and accidents do happen. I hate the internet responses to things like this so, so, much. A family I know recently had a child injured in an accident involving another family member, and they refused to let anyone do any sort of funding thing or internet publicity because they wanted to spare the grieving family member the Internet flogging.

  15. Suzanne

    I can barely even DEAL with this gorilla story (or any of the inevitable and horrifying kid-dies-in-a-hot-car stories each summer) because it feels so close to home! Despite working very hard to be attentive at all times, and anticipate potential dangers, and avoid tricky situations, I have a very independent and slippery toddler and I just… well, I can just imagine how easily and instantaneously a situation could go from Controllable to Not.

    On a lighter and colored-pencil-related note: the aforementioned toddler and I were at an Office Supply store recently, and I asked where the crayons were, and the salesperson told me where to find them… and then proceeded to tell me about all the Super Fancy colored pencil sets they were selling. Poor guy either has no experience with a child, or has very especially careful and conscientious kids. No way I am going to spend $163 on Prismacolor premier colored pencils for my three year old, but he thought it was really the BEST QUALITY and seemed legit perplexed that I wasn’t considering it.

  16. Devan

    Henry being 9 is mindblowing – although one of my own just turned 9…

    I totally agree about the gorilla thing.

  17. sooboo

    Not a parent here but the kids I’m around are so crazy fast and have the ability to squeeze into the tiniest spots that I’m amazed this type of accident at the zoo isn’t more common.

    I love that you gave your son Prismacolors! They have been my primary medium as a professional artist for a number of years. I had a drawing in the Prismacolor calendar one year. When I was Henry’s age I loved getting a new set of pencils or markers and seeing that nice, neat spectrum of color. Gumballs are a pretty rad gift too.

  18. Jesabes

    It’s my oldest child’s 7th birthday! I was not, unfortunately, around the internets when Henry was born, but I FEEL like I was because I read your entire archives when I found them. (Not too long after – 2009ish, during my maternity leave.)

    Also, I lost said now-7-year-old in our neighborhood a couple weeks ago and can only thank God there are no gorilla enclosures down the street.

  19. Mary

    Ugh I work for CPS and deal with real neglect and abuse. I don’t know the exact situation of how the parents lost sight of their kid. But I highly doubt it was anything beyond an accident. Terrible accident, yes. But kids are fast and shit happens. I wouldn’t jump to neglect if it’s a single occurrence with the family. I’ve had cases where 2 year olds are walking out of the family home once and others where they do it multiple times. Multiple times is considered neglect. Once is an accident and a warning to be more careful.

    1. G

      This. I’ve been a foster parent, so I don’t see as much as you do, Mary. (I only get one case at a time.) But neglect? Real neglect? Is not I-took-my-child-to-the-zoo-and-blinked-too-long-and-they-managed-to-get-into-the-gorilla-enclosure. Really? What reasonable parent thinks it’s even possible for a child to get into the enclosures at the zoo? Frankly, if I’m at the zoo with two kids and one is near the enclosure and the other isn’t, most of my attention is probably on the one that looks like they might slip away into the crowd.

      I think the blame-the-parent attacks are coming from a strong desire for a tragic event (or near tragic, depending on how you feel about gorillas, I guess?) to be SOMEBODY’S fault. It can’t just be a horrible, horrible accident because then it could happen to anyone. And that’s too scary, so we (as a society) rush to find someone to blame.

  20. rbelle

    I think what bothers me most about the gorilla story is that, while there would certainly be judgey comments (because there are ALWAYS judgey comments on stories about accidents happening to kids), I get the feeling this would have been less of a meme or social network pile-on if the gorilla had not been shot. Like, I think the boy could have actually died, and people would not be judging as much as they are if the gorilla had lived. People get weirdly deranged over animal deaths, and I think they want to place blame for that SO badly, they’re lashing out at the parents in extreme ways. I consider myself an animal lover and view this as a pretty tragic event for the zoo, especially given how social gorillas are. But it sounds like there weren’t a lot of options for the zoo keepers, and I’m genuinely happy that the kid survived a 12-foot fall (!) and gorilla encounter.

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