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