Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Perception and Perspective

Last Friday, I accompanied a friend of mine and her two toddlers to an indoor playground. Nicky, the older of the two at three years old, had been diagnosed with ASD nearly a year ago, and over that time we found our own friendship becoming stronger. Needless to say, this indoor playground housed all kinds of equipment, such as slides, a play kitchen, small cars, and a bouncer. Nicky has been gaining more confidence in his motor skills over the last six months and having more and more positive experiences enjoying slides, swings, ladders and other various equipment. A few months ago, while at a birthday party, he took an interest in the bouncer there, but was not interested in going inside, so when he and his 18 month old brother, Evan showed an interest in joining the somewhat bigger, laughing, screaming kids, his mother and I looked on as we saw them both smiling as they attempted to maintain their balance as the larger kids jumped near them, ready to leap into the bouncer, should there be a need to do so (i.e. Nicky or Evan falling over near a much larger jumping child, oblivious to a toddler lying where they were about to jump). As we, along with several other mothers sat at the opening of the bouncer, a woman flew right passed us screaming at us all for just standing there. As I continued to look at her, I realized that one of the older boys (her son) had climbed up on the side plastic wall of the bouncer and had seemingly gotten trapped somehow. We had all been oblivious to his screaming for help, as the bouncer was pretty much full of screaming children and it was most likely that everyone watching was distracted by the one or two children we had been protectively watching. The mother turned in the direction of everyone outside of the bouncer and shouted, “I can’t get him! I need help!” I ran into the bouncer, while my friend (perhaps having been the only one to have accurately assess what was actually happening to the boy) ran around to the back of the bouncer. When I reached the boy, I realized that he was not simply stuck between the plastic wall and netting like I had originally perceived, but he was stuck in an opening in the plastic, with only his arms and head sticking out. As I reached to help him, his mother let go, which is not what I was anticipating, but I was able to reach under his arms before he slipped even further and as I did so, the mother began screaming (I apologize for using the word “screaming” as it is not a word I particularly like, but it is really the best way to describe it) at the children who were all still jumping happily in the bouncer. “Get out! Get out!” she shouted as she started shoving children out of the opening of the bouncer and I remember thinking for a split second Oh no. Nicky, hates yelling, he hates being rushed, he is going to have a meltdown because a lady he doesn’t even know is shouting at him and shoving him out of a bouncer and neither myself nor his mother will be there when he (and not to mention his 18 month old brother) get out. But then I realized that I was hanging on to a terrified little guy and as I looked heard him screaming “help me!” and saw the panic in his eyes, I found the necessary surge of strength to pull him out...By this point he was sobbing and I handed him to his mother who kept thanking me and insist the boy thank me as well, while I looked around and saw both Nicky and Evan safely reunited with their mother, and apparently completely un-phased about being thrown out of the bouncer. One of the other mothers had gotten the woman who ran the playground to tell her what was going on and the woman turned toward the group of mothers who had gathered during this event and pointed to the corner on the opposite side of the bouncer and told us all that there was no hole and it was impossible for any child to fall through before walking away. I actually found this to be quite amusing as at least twelve grown adults and several children had just seen the whole event and clearly, there was a hole, and clearly a child could fall through (this is not to say the equipment was dangerous, as I am quite certain that anything can be dangerous when used improperly). My friend and I stayed another forty minutes or so and during this time, the boys mother came to thank me at least eight times. She explained to me that she had thought that her son was slipping out of her hands and literally falling into the bouncer and she imagined him suffocating, which is why she tried to get all of the children out of there. Her plan, she told me, was to get the children out of there so she could unplug the bouncer to let the air out and prevent her son from suffocating. She told me that her son kept telling her that he thought he was dying. I told her that I was sure that he was going to recover much more quickly than she was over the whole incident (she was quite shaken up). The boy was not going to fall into the bouncer, and in fact the worst that could’ve happened is that he fall about eight feet or so onto the floor of the outside of the bouncer and perhaps sprained an ankle or a wrist. The event was pretty quickly forgotten by my friend and I (hey, if you want a scary, hazardous story, I’ve got a few ones that can top that easily, but I see no reason to share them). Before the boy left, he ran up to me to thank me again and give me a hug (it was really sweet actually). A couple days later, I thought about this event and was able to process it, as it had all happened so quickly and what occurred to me is this:

1. Somehow Nicky and Evan got out safely from the bouncer seemingly without getting upset about a woman they did not know screaming at them and shoving them out to a group of children and other women that they didn’t know. It was almost as if Nicky, knew that something bigger was going on. That something was happening and being shouted at and shoved out of a bouncer by a stranger was appropriate at this time.
2. Each one of our experiences and perspectives shaped each of our perception of the situation. I thought the boy was trapped, but not falling, the mother thought he was falling into a bouncer and would suffocate in it, my friend realized he was falling through the back and ran around to help, the boy didn’t know what was happening, just that he was falling and “gonna die” and the woman who worked there denied the possibility of the event even happening. I missed the reactions, experiences of the children and gathering mothers, but am certain, each of their perceptions and experiences was different. This one event was experienced differently, based on each individuals perspective and perception of it. In addition, each individual reacted differently to the situation based on their perceptions and past experiences.

Again, this to me was an unremarkable event, other than that this time there was a crowd who witnessed it. I have had many similar experiences (although none in a bouncer) during my career, which I have chosen not yet to highlight here thus far. What I did get out of it however, is to further realize how people react differently when presented with the same exact situation. The same event can mean entirely different things to different people. Understanding where people are coming from allows us to understand others reactions more appropriately. I will not expound further, as this post was basically an exercise in sharing a part of what I learned from last Friday’s visit to the indoor playground. However, this lesson in perspective indeed came at an interesting time in my life…but enough about what I think...it is actually after all, only one perspective.


Blogger Bronwyn G said...

Kitty Genovese syndrome maybe?

11:43 PM  
Blogger QueenBitch said...

Wow. Kids never cease to amaze...even with problems that typically lead to meltdowns. Maybe it was that the kids could tell the difference, even unconsciously, between the tone of a frightened scream and that of an angry scream.

Interesting. Glad it all came out okay...way to go SquareGirl!!!

6:24 AM  
Blogger SquareGirl said...

Brownwyn, It's intersting that you mention that. I have always been quite astounded by Kitty Genovese syndrome, since learning about it in my college social studies classes...the thing is, I don't think it was just that...I think some of us really didn't see the situation for what it was.

QueenBee, It was an interesting day...I'm glad it was okay as well, yet I don't think I did anything congratulatory.

7:50 AM  
Blogger Minka said...

That reminds me:

Every coin has two sides.
Every story, or memory, has three. My side, your side and what really happened. Because sometimes perspective gets in the way of the truth.

1:11 PM  
Blogger mommyguilt said...

SG - Wow! What a great post. You're so right in that everyone's perspective and perception are different based on SO many different factors.

I'm so happy to hear that the boys stayed calm and didn't melt down when they were being shooed out of the bouncer and that you, SuperSquareGirl, were able to keep a cool head and come to the rescue of another.

Way to go!

2:07 PM  
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