Worst mom ever. That’s all I keep hearing about the Michelle Gregg whose 4-year-old son made his way into the gorilla habitat at the Cincinnati Zoo this holiday weekend.

“Why wasn’t she holding his hand?”
“Where was she when he ‘wandered off?’”
“Why wasn’t he in a stroller?”
“Who takes their eyes off their kids that long?”
“She should have told him the rules and given him a good ‘talking to’ before they went to the zoo. He would have minded me.”

I’m almost disappointed that her name’s been released. She’ll have to go into witness protection to survive the barrage of charges from the court of public opinion. I don’t know this woman. I wasn’t at the zoo. And even with eyewitness accounts, cell phone video, and the local news, I can’t stand in the seat of judgment. If we are honest, we have all had that moment we become the worst mom ever.

As a mom, there are times when you are hitting it out of the ballpark. You know those moments. Your kiddo went potty all by himself for the first time. Your little princess admitted her wrongdoing without being prompted. Your tween chooses different friends because the old ones were a bad influence. Your teenager finally got an A in a subject he’d been struggling.

These moments stay with you forever. The good ones give you a warm, fuzzy feeling. The great ones become your go to “mom story” when you need a boost. Or to brag. Or to outdo the overbearing mom who’s always trying to out-mom everyone else. Keep it real; it happens.

But then there are times, even if few and far between, where you feel like the worst mom ever. You feel like you’re failing at motherhood and life. Not that I need to remind you of that time you forgot to sign the permission slip and your kid was the only one who couldn’t go to the museum. But it happens. And when it does, life is awful. This was that moment for the Michelle Gregg.

Once, when Alexandra was three years old, she got away from me in the store. In a matter of seconds. One moment she was standing next to me – close enough I could feel her touch. The next moment she was gone. Vanished. My mind quickly went from a harmless game of hide and seek to kidnappers throwing her into the trunk of a car. I was terrified. Within a matter of seconds, I found her 20 feet down the aisle around the corner of the display reading a book. She was so proud to show me what she’d found. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

Does that make me a bad mom? Maybe to some. Was I holding her hand? In that moment, no. Was she in danger? Possibly. Did I feel awful? Absolutely. Will your post-tragedy judgment change me, the situation or the outcome? Not one iota.

There are countless other times when I’ve won the worst mom ever award. That time the boy told me his throat hurt so I gave him Chloraseptic and sent him to bed. Two days later we discovered he had scarlet fever from the untreated strep throat he’d had…for a week.  Or the time when Olivia first learned to ride her bike and rode face first into a mailbox. Or when Alexandra walked cowboy style out of Target because she’d lifted a pack of Twizzlers and shoved it in her underwear. I could go on. And on.

The point is, everyone has a worst mom ever moment. Some have far more consequences than others, like Michelle Gregg’s lapse in awareness. But it was a moment. A small moment in time over the course of zillions of moments in this woman’s life. If your entire existence was judged by one moment, what would your story be?