Daily Archives: October 4, 2011

Empathy At The Park

Yesterday we went to the park. It has been a while because there is only one decent park in the area and it is close to a homeless shelter which at times has some people that make me feel uneasy. I am a woman alone with three kids and some of the people are either on drugs or coming off of them and lets just say I get bad feelings sometimes and we do not go. When it is the right time though and there are several other parents and kids out it is nice to go to the park. Except it is the coldest spot on the island, it has so many huge trees surrounding it that the sun can only peek through at times.

However, yesterday was perfect.

Ariel brought her doll that she is currently not letting leave her side, her doll and dragon costume because now her dragon costume is her pet named “Ariel”. The kids did their normal routine, Ariel and Joshua played wildly all over the park, Daniel ran off alone and played on a kiddy slide thing. At times I get looks from parents because he does look like he is 8 years old towering over everyone height wise. I let him play, he learns how to take turns and be gentle with younger kids. He normally is unless he is fixated on going down the slide, but he is never aggressive just forgets that there are others around.

After a while of their usual play, they all drifted toward one another.

For a time they were playing in the same vicinity, but still Ariel and Joshua were playing more so together. Daniel kind of ran around them would do the spiral slide, look at them and laugh. He did keep looking at a little boy though. I noticed the boy too and wanted very much to include him. He stood close to the slide and just watched. He wanted so much to play, but it was clear he didn’t know what to say or do. I think he was around four or five. He had long hair about halfway down his and he was wearing a bright orange shirt. Daniel kept looking at him and smiling, but then would run around and play whatever he was playing. Ariel and Joshua were running all over the place and passed the boy several times.

There were two little girls that came up at some point and started playing by themselves.

All of my guys took notice, but did not talk to them and kept running off to the different areas of the park. I had to keep an eye my guys because they were scattered across the park so I was unable to talk to the little boy. I was also a bit apprehensive because his parents were far-off and I just didn’t have a good feel about it. Something just told me that I should not approach the boy. I was in earshot of his conversation with the two little girls who came to play.  Actually only one little girl did the talking, she was a real go-getter, Ariel and Joshua made friends with her, but I will talk about that in a moment. I heard this conversation between her and the little boy:

Girl: “Are you a girl?”

Boy: “No, I am a boy.”

Girl:“You have hair like a girl.”

Boy:“I am a boy.”

At that point Daniel was getting ready to jump off of some high bars and I had to run over to him. I do not know what else was said, but the boy went over to his parents. I was then, distracted and didn’t see him for a while. I wanted to jump in on that kiddy conversation, but I felt it best not to. In the mean time Ariel and Joshua now made friends with the little girl, who had left her friend with her mother eating a snack. She so wonderfully showed them how to go down the spiral slide on their bellies which I was not too fond of because Joshua almost fell face first into the dirt. So they played and she was “first” and they then made a pecking order. Her name was Molly and her friend’s name was Ella. Both adorable and Molly was the leader. Ella was very timid.

Ella was using Molly as her social guide and without her she was lost.

Molly ran around playing and talking and my guys followed and giggled and had so much fun because they “had friends”. (I know I have got to get them out more.) Molly continued to leave Ella and she looked to me for comfort. I tried to help her get back in the game, but she was lost without Molly telling her what to do. Then Molly leaped down from the slide and said: “Let’s play princesses!” Ella said she would be Belle, Molly waited for Ariel. I looked at Ariel not knowing who she would pick, I was nervous this was a big social moment and if she picked the wrong one Molly could turn in a moment, I just knew it. Ariel said “I am Princess Dragon”. I looked at Molly and waited, she was looking back at me and she was stalling, then she looked at Ariel then back at me and said: “I am Princess Leia” I smiled.

Then she asked Joshua what prince he was.

At first it was Aragorn, but when he heard Princess Leia he changed to “Prince Anakin”. They played on and I was hoping for the best. It happened though Molly turned. Thankfully Ariel did not hear it, but I heard Molly tell Ella: “Come on I do not like Princess Dragon.” And they ran off. Ariel and Joshua had not heard anything and thought that the girls were playing something else. I was happy that Molly started running around screaming and pretending that Ariel was a dragon, so she included her again. Ariel loves playing a dragon so it worked out. Then, Ella tried to be a dragon, but couldn’t quite get the scare. It all ended up being ok, if Molly had anymore to say I did not hear it and my guys were unaware to anything other than having fun.

I noticed the little boy in orange was back watching.

I asked Ariel to ask him if he wanted to play with them. She told me that she would in a few minutes, but was taking a break. A break from what I am not sure, I think she just felt awkward about it. As they were all playing the mom came up and told the boy to play. Daniel continued to run around the boy smiling. At one point he even said: “hey” but then ran off and went down the slide. The boy asked his mom to play with either Daniel or Joshua I couldn’t tell and she said: “He doesn’t want to play with you, come on.” She then proceeded to try to get him to go down the slide and climb around. She even started doing it herself to show him how, but she was yelling at him saying: “Get up here and play”.

All of her language was quite harsh in tone, but nothing so terrible that I felt I should say something.

It was very uncomfortable and painful to listen to. What do you do? I really don’t know. I actually shut down and didn’t have words. The mom finally had enough and told him that if he wasn’t going to play, then they were leaving. He started to cry and said that he wanted to play. She yelled at him and said: ” You are not playing! I am trying to play with you and you won’t. This is not fun for mommy.” With that she scooped him up and carried him off as he screamed and cried. I wasn’t sure what my kids were feeling or thinking and it seemed as if they had not noticed too much because they continued to play while this was going on. I did see Daniel stop and look and run back up to the slide, stop and look and then go down the slide. However, he was smiling the whole time.

After the event Ariel came up to me and said: “Mom, I think I feel bad for that boy.”

Joshua said: ‘Yes, I feel bad for him, his mom didn’t seem nice.” And Daniel came up and said: “I wanted to play with the orange boy.” He then ran off to the slide and as he went up the steps he said: “I feel bad for him too.” I told them that I felt bad too and I really didn’t have answers as to why that happened. They seemed to be settled or at least let it go. I found out later in the evening that they were all still thinking about it. When they were on Skype with David they told him about it. Daniel said: (with a sigh and a little teary-eyed) “Yeah, I felt bad for the orange boy.” Ariel and Joshua added their concerns about his mom. This was the first time that Daniel voiced his empathy for another person like that. He was feeling it and watching the whole thing.

Just by observing their behavior it would have seemed that none of my children cared about the situation going on.

However, they all were and they were deeply concerned and upset by the whole situation. All of them felt bad for him not playing, but didn’t know what to do. They felt bad for how he was spoken to and it hurt them, but they didn’t know what to say. All of them felt sad. All of us had empathy,  but didn’t know how to help or fix the situation. Yes, people on the spectrum have empathy. It was a bit too overwhelming because all of us were deeply affected, but felt helpless in the situation.

Each of us looked as though we didn’t see or know what was going on.

The fact is we took in each detail and we wished that it could have ended differently. You cannot really tell by a stoic face or a smiling face how someone is expressing empathy. I think one of my issues along with what my kids felt was the inability to know what to do. We did not know how to help or show our empathy well. I have been accused of being harsh, cold, or strange while trying to express empathy. I wish people could have a peek into my heart and mind sometimes so they could feel the intensity of my empathy. It looks as though my kids have the same intensity.

Just because it does not look the way people think it should does not mean empathy is lacking.


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