My son and his literal world

Debs writes....

My eldest son, K lives in a very literal world and we spend half of our day trying to watch what we say, and the other half paying for the fact that we forgot.  "Watching what we say" - there you go, that phrase would have K staring at our faces to "watch" what we are saying.

Inititally, this caused us heartache, for example when we saw him closing a door and shouted "watch your fingers" and he did.  He watched them as he closed the door on them.  We hadn't said "move your hand away from the door".  However, it has also caused us some huge entertainment.

For a long time, K believed my name was "Hiya".  When people visited us, the first thing many of them said as they walked through the door was "Hiya" and K truly thought this was my name.  When I intitally suspected this, I said to my parents "I'm sure he thinks my name is hiya" so that evening, at dinner, my dad said "Hi K" and K responded "Hi Grandad", then my mum said "Hi K" and he responded "Hi Grandma" and then I said "Hi K" and he responded "Hi Hiya".  Mummy Hiya was confirmed.  This did amuse us, especially when I left him at nursery and he would respond "Bye Hiya" or "See you Hiya".  Yes, I know that this could be interpreted as me laughing at my son but nothing could be further from the truth.  We have to get through this jungle with some sanity intact so for us, a sense of humour is essential.

As he got older, K realised that my name was Debs and he also understood that I was his mummy.  However, he chose to call me Debs.  He would return from school and say "Hiya Debs, where's Chris" and I would reply "Daddy is at work".  This went on for some time and still does, however, when we asked him why he called me Debs and not Mummy, he gave me a very confused look and replied "But you don't call me Son, you call me K".  So yes, why should he call me Mummy - which is in fact my relationship to him - when I call him K and not Son.

Sometimes his logic just stumps me for a response.  On one occasion, K had been settled in bed, however, when I finished making a brew and walking into the sitting room, he was sat in there.  I asked "Why are you not in bed" and his response was "because I am sat down here"

shameOf course, living in such a black and white world, with little understanding of social rules can cause some issues.  Usually mortification

We had one occasion when I was trying to plug him into a booster seat with one other child (in a booster seat) and a non-petite lady in there too - not an easy task.  So how mortified was I when I asked K to move towards me and he responded  "it's not me, it's her - she's fat".  Now as a non-skinny lady myself I was horrified for this poor lady and I told him very firmly that we don't use this word, it's not a nice word and he was plugged in and off they went.

That evening, I asked him how the day was and he replied it was okay, I asked about the journey and he said he was "squished" in the car because the lady was fat.  I explained again, this was a word that makes people feel sad inside and not a nice word to use.  The next morning, we walked out to the car and I suggested that it may be nice to apologise for using that word and he was happy to do this.

We got to the car, he sat down and as I plugged him in, he offered an apology.  "I am sorry I said you were fat yesterday, Debs has told me that it is not a nice word and it can make you sad inside which is not nice".  The lady accepted the apology, I smiled with pride and then........

"Debs, it's not my fault I am squished in here.  It's her, she is overweight and needs to go on a diet"  The driver at this point choked, I was looking for a hole to crawl into and K said "is that ok, Debs - I didn't use the word fat so no one feels sad."  Want to bet?

So yes, the literal world can be amusing, heartbreaking, mortifying and a real challenge but we try hard to keep smiling.   I would love to hear your experiences, maybe we can all help each other.  We now have a rule with K that he doesn't comment on people's height, size, colour or clothes unless they ask him to.    What rules or tips do you have?

Debs Aspland
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Debs Aspland

Exec Director at Bringing Us Together
Mum of 3, wife of 1, Exec Director of Bringing Us Together, Owner of Inspiring Circles, Writer of Chaos in Kent, Development - South at Community Circles
Debs Aspland
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8 Comments

  1. T

    My daughter (also) K can be very literal. Today
    K: can we go to the park?
    Me: no because it is wet
    K: oh, can’t we go to the park near the shops?
    Me: no, because everything is wet.
    K: what even us?
    Me: no we are dry inside. Everywhere out side is wet
    K: what about under the cover at the shops?
    Me: ok, not everywhere outside, but all the places you want to go outside are wet. So we are staying in and we will make cakes.
    K: they are not cakes, they are muffins.

    Part of me wanted to laugh, part of me wanted to slap myself for not being more careful and the last part.. Well, however much I love her at that point I had to remind myself that she is not intentionally such a smart arse at 5!

    As for mortification; we have just moved into a new area, and were getting the bus to school. Our neighbour from downstairs (Who I would guess has a form of special needs himself), got on too. K HAS to sit in the 4 chair areas, so I sat next to her. The gentleman sat across from us.
    K got up and moved I asked her why she was moving, she said “This man smells nasty.” And carried on walking. I appologised and went after her. Not the best way to to introduce yourself to new neighbours!

  2. jackid

    B was 8 or 9 at the time – I was pregnant with 6 and was stood in the bus station chatting, he was looking intently at the person who I was chatting to, now this can go two ways, either a ground open up moment or a yey hes my boy moment. Hes looking and looking and i knew it wouldnt be good, no escape as bus was due then……..excuse me, yes B, are you pregnant or just fat? luckily the person I was talking to knew he has issues and took it in her stride, she replied no, im just fat. He was happy with that. Everyone is now lumped into fat or thin, tall or short, its brilliant how blunt they are at times!!!

  3. We had a lot of trouble with this until I started reading aloud the Enid Blyton series The Children of Cherry Tree Farm which has a character Benjy who takes everything literally. I could see it coming so I would read the bit where I knew that Benjy would take something literally, then I would stop and we would talk about what we thought Benjy might think it means, then we would read on to see if we were right. That way my son wasn’t getting it wrong, it was Benjy! Eventually my son started to get the idea.

    Then one day in the car I pointed out something and he was very quiet for a minute. Then he said, “Is that one of those things where adults don’t actually say what they mean?” I said yes, and at that point I knew that we had made the break though. He now understood!

    It didn’t mean that it never happened again, it meant that he now had a better understanding so that when he did get it wrong, he would make a joke about it. Eventually he developed a great sense of humour by taking every literally for comic value.

    And yes, now that he is 16 there are days when I wished I hadn’t taught him about this! Who’da though that Enid Blyton would come in handy like this!

  4. My son is the same and feel I am allways apologising on his behalf I think the worse time was when he said that a lady looks like the gruffalo on the bus and refused to sit anywhere near her and understandingly she was not impressed there has allso been moments when I have had to giggle too a few days ago I said oits raining cats and dogs and jake went and looked and was confused to find it was not xx

  5. Caron Ward

    I think my most amusing moment was at the swimming pool – with a friend who is now 12 stone lighter but at the time a bit of extra padding around the bikini area and my son says “My – what a big bagina (couldn’t say his V’s at the time!!) you’ve got”………….Luckily she has an amazing sense of humour and simply repiied – “You’re not the first to say that!”

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