Friday, December 28, 2007

Either/Or

Today I did something extremely stupid and possibly slightly, very mildly heroic.

Fly and I were at a mall that has a large indoor playground. (God bless these places. When you are shopping with little ones who can't stay stuck in a stroller for long, you need a place like this to let them burn off some energy.) I had been following Fly around the play area for about 15 minutes when I noticed a little girl had gotten stuck inside one of those climbing towers. Her parents were on the other side of the grate wall of the tower, trying to tell her how to get un-stuck. They weren't speaking English, so I don't know if they were telling her to go up or to come back down. She was crying, halfway up a steep step with one leg stretched out to the grate where her parents were and the other leg dangling.

Fly got stuck in a different play area last month, so I could relate. He had surprised me by being able to climb to the top of the tower, then not understand how to crawl into the tube and go down the slide. So I had to crawl up into the tower. I showed him how to get to the slide and come down, for future reference. It was cramped, but I made it. Fly cried the whole time -- and I've been reluctant to go back since! This play area was built for larger children, so Fly couldn't climb it.

I watched the parents and the crying little girl for a while and wondered if they wanted her to learn how to get out on her own. But she still wasn't budging. The little girl was frozen. Her dad was obviously too big to get into the tower to get her -- and her mom was pregnant. So I offered to get her. Turns out her parents spoke English too, and almost before I could finish asking, they told me to please go inside and bring her back down.

And here is where I made my mistake.

I should have asked one of the girl's parents to watch Fly while I carried their little girl back down the tower.

It took me less than 30 seconds to crawl up and get her, but that was 30 seconds no one was watching Fly. He could have left the play area and started wandering around the mall. Another child could have hurt him. An adult could have grabbed him and taken him away. Anything could have happened.

Perhaps even before I offered to help the parents, my subconscious had already calculated the risks and determined it would be fine to help the other family. Maybe that instinctual, mothering part of me -- the same part that wanted to help the little girl -- knew it would be OK. Possibly, it was faith that God would keep Fly safe if I helped another child. Some people would call it karma or some kind of checks and balances in the universe, e.g., help someone else out and you're taken care of in the process.

But the truth is I didn't think these things. I may have felt them, sensed them, known them within my inner self -- but I didn't stop and think.

On the way home, I berated myself for leaving Fly unattended and told myself I can't do that ever again.

And I wondered if that meant not helping others in need when I have Fly to care for. Even as I wondered that, I knew it couldn't be right -- at least not all the time, in every situation. Surely, I thought, it can't always come down to either taking care of your child or helping another child. In many cultures and animal species, several adults watch out for all the children -- not just to each her own. But it's not right for Fly to suffer if I happen to momentarily be more interested in someone else's child.

Those 30 seconds and the what-ifs and the philosophical questions have been beating me up. I'd like to believe it was faith and instincts that led me to help the little girl -- having that real sense of just knowing Fly would be OK -- and I'd like to tell myself I'm overthinking something simple. And I don't want to swear off helping others if it means my attention is diverted from Fly for a while. However, I also realize I am Fly's only mother and that he looks to me for protection.

If it's true that a mother to one is a mother to all, then there must be a balance within each of us so no child is neglected.

And yet ... there are neglected children.

Stupid and heroic sometimes go hand in hand. Where do we draw the line?

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17 Comments:

Blogger groovyoldlady said...

Kudos to you for helping the little girl!

And don't beat yourself up over what "might" have happened. It's a waste of time and energy to dive into the guilt pool over something that never was.

Instead, plan ahead for the next time (if there is one) and also keep in mind that Fly is constantly getting older and more mature. There will come a time when you can say, "Fly, stay RIGHT THERE until Mommy is back - and he will."

8:10 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Interesting discussion. It is difficult to balance my "protect your child" and "save the world" instincts. I always want to help the homeless, give to the needy, hold the neglected children...but I often hold back to protect my own little girl. Perhaps this struggle will diminish as my daughter grows up and can help alongside me. For now, I choose safety because she's bound to run off or put herself in a precarious situation without my watchful attention. Such is life with a toddler...

10:18 AM  
Blogger carrie said...

It's darn near impossible to plan for these sorts of things, because one never knows for sure when one's superhero services will be needed.

Rest assured, heroic saves or no, we all do things that we look back on and wonder how we could have done it differently or more safely.

Don't dwell on it. What's done is done. You're a good mom.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous chelle said...

You are so awesome for helping that little girl. Becca got spooked once in a tunnel when I was 8 months pregnant. There was no way I would have been able to help her out. Eventually she made it through but still!!

I think circumstances like these help us prepare for the next time. You know now what you would be comfortable doing. Never underestimate Fly too, he probably sensed that that time was not the time to explore.

5:54 PM  
Blogger h&b said...

Was the playcentre not fenced off/enclosed ?

FWIW, I think you did the right thing, but it's also good to reflect and learn, so either way, not a bad thing - you did a good deed, and gave yourself a lesson to refelct upon.

No harm done.

6:48 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I guess I put a lot of stock in mother's instinct. I also believe that most people WILL look out for and help your child. That's why I don't teach my kids that all strangers are bad people. Not that I tell them to go with strangers or anything, but if they need help I want them to feel that they can ask even a stranger to help them.

I think that you subconsciously assessed the pros and cons and went with the decision you did. Which, obviously, was the best one for the situation!

So many people would have done nothing to help (unfortunately, especially since the parents appeared to not speak English).

Karma.

8:03 PM  
Blogger oh amanda said...

I don't know, I think it was right for the moment. Generally speaking, it's always more important to protect your child than another. But when there is a situation--you have to do what has to be done. I do believe in God's protection. You were used by Him today and He protected you & Fly!

8:15 PM  
Blogger Bloggy Mama said...

I think it was a smart move. God was watching out for Fly, as you watched out for that little girl.

12:55 AM  
Blogger Mama Zen said...

I've done the same kind of thing, then wondered who was looking after my child! Honestly, I think you were probably way more aware of what was going on with Fly at the time than you realize.

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems like the other couple would have watched Fly even without you having to ask. At least I would have.

You question your act of kindness, but here's something REALLY stupid I did when my oldest (now 8) was just 5 months old. I was driving alone with her from GA to NC, and we had just come out of a restaurant off the interstate. I was buckling her into her carseat when I witnessed a crash on the road. Immediately, I ran into the building to yell at someone to call 911. I left my daughter alone, in the car, with the door unlocked. To tell you the truth, I'm not even sure I even closed the car door before I ran inside. I was in such shock from having seen two cars collide. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I often STILL think about what I did and how lucky I am that someone didn't take my daughter in the 15 seconds or so that I was away.

Lis Garrett
http://www.MelissaGarrett.wordpress.com

7:15 PM  
Blogger Guinevere Meadow said...

I agree with the commenter who said not to beat yourself up over what *might* have happened. (Although it's SO HARD not to do that!!)

You so totally rock, by the way.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Kristi said...

I think you did the right thing. You can "coulda, shoulda, woulda" all day long, but the bottom line is that Fly is safe, you helped a little girl who couldn't help herself, and nothing else matters. A lot of people would have ignored that little girl and thought only of their own child, so you should pat yourself on the back for being so caring and kind. The world needs more people like you.

10:54 PM  
Blogger Mama Drama Jenny, the Bloggess said...

Once you become a mother you are a mother to all children of the world. I'd have done the same thing.

Sometimes you just go with your instincts. They're usually right.

10:16 AM  
Blogger ~Melissa~ said...

Don't beat yourself up and let those what ifs get to you - I think I would have done the same thing.

2:47 PM  
Blogger mrsmogul said...

You need the Playground Mom of the Year award! Yes, it was cool that you looked after the girl, and luckily FLy was alright too!

3:16 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

First, just so you know, my husband Sean reads all the comments on my blogs and often follows the trails they leave. He read this post and insisted I read it. I relate on so many levels. I know that no amount of telling you it's ok will take away the passing waves of horror and fear. I will say that I like knowing there are moms like you out there and want to let you know that moms like me, when not climbing towers like you did, are keeping an eye on the kids who appear to be alone or not within arms reach of their parents. I bet one of us was watching Fly.

This was a lovely and necessary post, thank you so much for sharing it.

6:20 PM  
Blogger Damselfly said...

Thank you, everyone, for your supportive and kind comments.

10:46 PM  

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