Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The grape escape

Last night, Bud asked for grapes for his bedtime snack. I gave him about six of them and watched as he sat at the table and munched them. Then we went upstairs so he could brush his teeth and go through the final stages of his bedtime routine. As we were headed to his room, he realized that he'd left his beloved Between the Lions stuffed toys (a Christmas present from Nana and Papa, with a lot of help from ebay) in the kitchen, and he dashed downstairs to get them.

As we snuggled together in his bed and I opened up to the first page of Curious George Makes Pancakes, I realized he was chewing something.

"Bud, do you have gum?" I asked.

"No," he replied.

"What's in your mouth?" I asked.

"Nuffing," he slurred, his mouth too full to give a clear response.

"Bud," I said more sternly. "What is in your mouth?"

"Grapes," he said.

Thinking he must have had one left from his bedtime snack, I shrugged and turned back to the book, as in my peripheral vision I saw him pop another grape into his mouth.

"Bud, did you help yourself to more grapes?" I asked.

"No," he replied. "Nothing."

"Where did you get the grapes?"

"You gived me some for a bedtime snack."

"Do you have more grapes?" I asked.

He held up his hand, bursting with grapes, and looked at me as he shook the fruits he held. "You gived me some of these."

"Bud, you ate the ones I gave you and then you helped yourself to more."

"What," he said, more a statement ("I don't see your point") than a question ("Could you repeat that?").

"You ate the grapes I gave you. And then you what?"

"I helped myself to more?"

"Yes, you did."

"Silly boy!"

"No, Bud...."

"You're serious?"

"Yes, I'm serious. It's not okay to help yourself to food. You have to ask first."

"Please, Mom?"

"Well, Bud, it's too late now."

"I already did that?"

"Yes, you already did that."

"And now you're mad at me? I'm time out?"

"No, I'm not mad. But you have to ask before you take food."

"Please can I have grapes, Mom?"

And since we were already this far into the bedtime routine, and since he was already getting groggy from his nighttime medication, and since I couldn't think of any less convoluted way to explain the in-the-future-first-ask-then-take lesson I was trying to teach, and since it was a handful of grapes for heaven's sake, I simply sighed and said "Yes, Bud, you can have the grapes," and he munched happily as we read the story together (me reading the narrative, him reading - no, him performing - all the dialogue).

When we were done, I kissed him and turned out the light, and started thinking about the amazing exchange that had just taken place.

This is not Bud's first foray into lying - that not-typically-autistic behavior that requires you to adopt another person's perspective, anticipate their reaction, and modify your own response to try to elicit a different reaction, all in a fraction of a second. But there was a level of sophistication to this falsehood that was particularly impressive. Bud knew that he wasn't supposed to help himself to another snack, and he knew that I wouldn't be happy about it. He wanted to worm his way out of trouble, so he looked for the most plausible explanation he could imagine: I am still eating the grapes you gave me earlier. But he knew that a statement like that would be a blatant lie that, if discovered, might lead to even greater trouble.

So, instead of lying, Bud thoughtfully, artfully, cunningly - and simply - tried to mislead me.

"You gived me some for a bedtime snack," he said. And he's right: I did give him some. I didn't give him those exact ones, but I'd given him some very much like them. He wasn't really lying, but he was trying to set me on a path on which I would - all on my own, and through no fault of his - arrive at an incorrect conclusion that just so happened to exonerate him.

When he saw that his plan was faltering - that I might not be taking the bait - he tried to kick it up a notch with a subtle but effective nonverbal cue. He reiterated his original (truthful) statement, "You gived me some of these" - while simultaneously holding up and shaking the grapes in his hands. He said the words "some of these," but his action - his nonverbal communication - the shaking of the grapes - was designed to make me hear the words "these grapes right here." And he even shot me a flash of meaningful eye contact just to drive the point home.

So it didn't work - so I saw right through the deception. It was still masterful.

And let's face it: in the end, he still got to eat the grapes.


kirsten said...

and he deserved them - he sure worked for them!

Jenn said...

Oh I can so relate to this! We had a moment at our house today not unlike Bud's where the all the inner-workings of an otherwise simple ordinary event means oh so much more. Bud earned those grapes indeed.

kristina said...

Not sour grapes, but very sweet.

And too, it sounds that he was.....hiding them in his hand-----better than M & M's.

(Charlie loves to stand at the counter and eat the purple ones.)

Niksmom said...

What a clever boots! Sometimes, you've gotta celebrate the craftiness and let him think he's getting away with something, no?

mommy~dearest said... crafty. Way to go, Bud! I too, will secretly celebrate the day that mine concocts a story- right now, he just flat out lies- "no, I didn't do it!" ;)

Anonymous said...

Yea! In this ring we have Bud, in this ring we have Mom-NOS: ding, ding and Bud is the winner!

Making up a tale to get the fruits (ok grapes) of your labor is high-level thinking. A developmental stage...good for mother and son!


MOM-NOS said...

Mommy~Dearest, a lot of people see even that kind of blatant lying as a great developmental milestone in autism, since any kind of lying still has to employ theory of mind skills.

And (fortunately or unfortunately), somehow I get the feeling that before long Jaysen is going to become a master at the art of subtle deception!

FXSmom said...

lmao at "you're serious" I've heard that so many times too. He tried

KAL said...

Masterful indeed :) And at least they were grapes and not, as someone said, M&Ms. Lots of layers here. Great stuff mom-nos.

drama mama said...

I'm so proud of him.

Little liar.

graceunderautism said...

what a clever liar indeed. We are still stuck at, "ummmm...nothing" I also have a grape thief in my house.

David said...

Don't know about no theory of mind but this sure was a fun post to read! That kid's going to law school. Bet you anything!

Osh said...

Oh wow. I am still dealing with this at 14, almost 15.

I lost my wits a long time ago, now I can't keep a straight face when Evan pulls this game.

Stimey said...

I love what we celebrate. I never thought I would appreciate deception in my children, but now it's a very big deal.

Good for Bud! Sorta. :)

Galen said...

Great story! And what a wonderful blog, which I just discovered today. I know I'm going to be spending hours reading old posts and looking forward to more.

Steph said...

I'm pretty sure I've said this before, but it bears repeating. Bud and Reed could be twins, lol. We actually have to padlock the fridge at night for just this sort of situation. Because apparently there's no time like 3 am for eating an entire box of creamsicles (not that we'd know or anything). ;)

for what it's worth said...

Oh, am I going to need your help in a few weeks. I have been assigned a new student in my class who "is quite a handful" according to his previous teacher. He has autism and well quite frankly what I can gleen from his cumulative file...a sense of humour and an ability to make the world his kingdom. We're going to have a ball. I am so excited to share my day with him and the other kids. And as for the teacher who wrote, "{handful", well, she hasn't met me or been in my class. I am the handful! So though the blog is hibernating, my comments and questions will not be. Hope that's okay! Hey and pass me a grape please!

MOM-NOS said...

4, You know I'm here for you - whenever and in whatever way I can be helpful! That child is VERY lucky to have landed in your class!

conuly said...

Why isn't it okay for him to help himself to some food, and he has to ask?

At his age I was allowed to make myself any kind of sandwich, take any fruit from the fridge and eat it straight, and eat any snack foods that were deliberately left within reach ("within reach" being an odd term for a kid who was climbing before she could walk, but that roughly meant I couldn't do anything more than stand on a chair to get to it).

I'm constantly exhorting my nieces to fetch their own water and make their own snacks, just so that I don't have to do it. I call it "encouraging independence", but really, I'm just lazy you know :)

But seriously, why not?

conuly said...

Just to be clear, also on spectrum myself, though I suspect less obviously so than Bud (not so much less obviously so that my parents didn't know when I was a kid (not that they ever told me), but less obviously so that I couldn't get diagnosed as a child).

So I'm trying not to compare apples and oranges here - and for that matter, any number of perfectly "normal" kids can't be trusted with, well, anything, so there you go.

Sarah said...

Wonderful post! My little guy is and is very much like Bud, although a few years behind Bud developmentally. So I've been reading your blog for a couple of years now for insight into what I have to look forward to down the road. So far, Elijah is following pretty well in Bud's footsteps! It will be very exciting when (if) he develops the level of sophistication needed for such an act of (attempted) deception!

Now, if only I could get him to crave grapes instead of cheap, hydrogenated oil-laced granola bars!

MOM-NOS said...

Good question, Conuly. Bud is on a medication that has dramatically increased his appetite and I need to monitor his food intake carefully because the kind of weight gain that can accompany this med could put him at risk to develop diabetes. I need to monitor even "healthy" foods because, literally, if left on his own he'd eat two pounds of grapes in an afternoon. So far his weight gain has been reasonable, and I really need to make it sure it stays that way.

That being said, I also need to let people know that I'm not interested in turning this into a conversation about my decision to use medication with Bud. I'll just say that I make those decisions carefully, that his medication is managed closely by a medical team I trust, and that the medication has made a tremendous difference for him. So - I am often looking for feedback on my parenting decisions, but I have to say, respectfully, that this is not one of those times.

for what it's worth said...

Our school offers a "lunch and learn" program during the winter months. When it's minus 30C outside these activities are designed to keep the kids engaged, have exercise and even learn a thing or two.
One of the classes is "Global Issues" which is expected to entice Grade 5-6 students into looking outside their own community and seeing if there is something they can do. We even had Craig Kielburger of Free the Children come to speak to the kids in the fall. little gem came up to me today and asked where the "global issues" group was meeting (he's grade 1). I told him that it was canceled for this lunch hour. "Oh" was the reply... with a slight pregnant pause to think and then "Could someone explain to me the reason for this cancellation?" (after I picked my jaw up off the floor I suggested it might be because the leader was ill or something equal to that.)next reply "then clearly we will need to seek out some vitamins for this lady. I have things to talk about." I am so hopelessly in love and it's not even the first week. I can see that I am going to have to be on my vitamins and toes to keep up with my newfound friend. I love my job! (and I can see where I need to lend my skills etc. which are going to keep me busy too. But the kids already love him and he feels welcome in the school...bring on the mayhem!

Jordan said...

How did I miss this post? I love it! Your dissection of these developments are always right on and so fascinating to read. You're such a fabulous mom. Nice job, Bud!!

Joeymom said...

I think Joey is channelling Bud. We had a very similar incident here. And it even involved grapes.

conuly said...

Oh, that makes sense.

Not knowing Bud or you personally, and certainly not being involved in your lives or, hey, in charge of anything, I can't imagine making any commentary on his medication except "Hope it continues working" or maybe "Wish it didn't have those side effects". How rude, to criticize!

(I recognize I may have sounded critical at first, but I wasn't, I really *was* curious.)

MOM-NOS said...

No, no, Conuly! I know that was a genuine (and very reasonable) question. The second part of my answer wasn't directed to you at all. A while ago, I had a post about medication and felt defensive about some of the responses I got. Even then, I don't think people intended to put me on the defensive... but all the same, I wanted to ward off a reoccurence.

Jenny B said...

Funny how with kids like ours, we really celebrate these tiny pieces of typical child development. To us, imitation, pretend play, theory of mind...these are HUGE milestones worthy of celebration.

BCC said...

Clever! Very "theory of mind" I'd say.

OT, but I am curious what medication he's on and how well he's handling it. We just started Keppra, but I guess it's still too soon to tell. Sure wish there were more people in my life I could share notes with.

MOM-NOS said...

BCC, I try to avoid the specifics of Bud's medication on the blog, for the reasons I mentioned in an earlier comment. I'd be happy to compare notes by e-mail if you want to drop me a line: momnos at gmail dot com. (I should mention that Bud is not on Keppra - I'm not even sure what that is!)