On a rare recent trip to the zoo, I paused to view the hippos whose backs and heads rose like still smooth stones above the surface of their pond, not looking at all like the most dangerous animal on the planet.
I looked across their resting forms to the fence railing where I'd sat my one-year-old daughter nearly 21 years ago. A zoo keeper had tapped me urgently on the shoulder and asked me to take my child off the rail. He glared at me, and I glanced around to see if anyone had witnessed my shame, only to revisit that parenting mistake in my head every time I made another.
This day, I walked purposefully to the opposite railing and I saw that in the unlikely event I'd dropped my child, she would have landed in a soft patch of grass and not, as I'd always imagined, directly in the open mouth of the hippo below. No guarantee of safety, of course. She's always been quick.
Parents make mistakes, and we joke it is a miracle our children survive.
Sometimes, we're looking into the mouth of the hippo, but we're not nearly as close as we think we are.