The Trouble with Directions and A Literal Mind
Our family has a jar of “dinner questions” that we ask each night during dinner. (duh.) Sometimes they are thought-provoking, with questions like “what war would you go back in time to participate in and why?” Others are trivial, like “what name other than your own would you choose?” (I guess you all know by now what Dr. Smooth would choose!) Last night’s question was a Story Starter. The slip of paper has the beginning of a sentence, and each person uses that to tell a story. So our story last night began: “I got in so much trouble when I . . .” Dr. Smooth answered right away. “When I hit Mr. M in the face with a dodge ball!” (Mr. M was one of his elementary teachers. My Knight and I: “What????” Dr. Smooth: “Well I mostly got in trouble because it broke his glasses.” Us: “WHAT??????” I am sure I heard this story at the time, but as parents we tend to be selective about what we choose to remember. I had evidently blocked this one out because it was news to me. Dr. Smooth began to tell the story from his point of view. It seems that the elementary kids were throwing the dodge ball REALLY hard and hitting the primary (think Preschool-K-1) kids, so the little kids didn’t want to play. So Mr. M bought 60 smushy balls that wouldn’t hurt. We interrupted here—He bought 60 balls??? Dr. Smooth explained Mr. M had crates and crates of these black smushy balls, probably 60, but he didn’t count. He just figured 60 was a good number. So anyway, Mr. M was trying to convince the terrified younger kids that the new balls would not hurt like the old ones did. Now I am not sure what Mr. M was thinking---because he knew my child---but he asked Dr. Smooth and one other child to throw the ball at him as hard as they could. I interrupted again . . . “Wait, he asked you to throw the ball at him???” Yes, he replied. As hard as they could. Dr. Smooth threw the ball as hard as he could, and it hit Mr. M square in the chest. No harm done. Mr. M said something to the younger kids like, See—that didn’t hurt at all! Then Mr. M turns to the other kid and tells him to throw it. But, from Dr. Smooth’s literal mind point of view, Mr. M never told him to STOP throwing the ball at him as hard as he could. So he lobbed it at full force again. This time, Mr. M was turned toward the other kid, so the ball caught him in the side of the head. In Dr. Smooth’s words, it “pushed his glasses right into his face until they snapped, and he got real mad.” (I bet he did.) Dr. Smooth said that really messed up Mr. M’s lesson because none of the little kids would believe it didn’t hurt after that. I asked what happened to Dr. Smooth, and he said he got sent to sit in the primary class, which was the worst punishment you could get, according to him. Dr. Smooth said he still doesn’t understand why Mr. M got mad when he never told him to stop throwing the ball. “He said to throw it as hard as we could. He didn’t say how many times or when to stop.” I learned long ago to be very specific when giving Dr. Smooth directions. My apologies, Mr. M.