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Sharon’s Blog : And I Mean That Literally — Plus an Update

Posted by Sharon O'Donnell on 2013/05/01 00:40:05

hought it was time for an updated photo here, so here it is. At my nephew’s wedding. Looking at the photo from left to right on front, David, age 18; Jason with red tie, age 12; me; husband Kevin is at the back left of photo and Billy, age 21, is behind me. Mom of men, huh?  Glad I have my 12-year-old! 

Below the photo, I’ve posted an essay from my as-yet-unpublished book. I’ve been hoping to get 2 other books published, The Guy Zone and Please Don’t Let Me Be the Oldest Mom in the PTA!  However, since the economy nosedived in 2008 (when my first book was released), it is impossible to get anything published unless you are Kim Kardashian (?) or have 50,000 Twitter followers. So I’ve decided to go ahead and post some of the material from these manuscripts on this blog. This one is called “And I Mean That Literally”





And I Mean That Literally

            My guys seem to take everything very literally, accepting things without asking any questions or considering the possibility that there is more to the story than meets the eye.

Case in point.  A few years ago, my family went to Cooperstown, NY for my middle son’s AAU baseball team to compete in a tournament at the home of the Hall of Fame.  It’s difficult for all players on a team to be able to go to the tournament during the same week, due to family schedules, finances, and other commitments. Thus, two of our guys couldn’t go with the team the scheduled week, and that meant we were down to eight players.  Luckily, the tournament director knew of a boy there locally in Cooperstown who played baseball but had never played in that tournament, though he’d always wanted to do so.  He became our substitute player, and we were to meet him at the first practice in New York.

Upon our arrival, a few of the parents were talking together and the conversation turned to the new player. Someone asked if anyone knew the boy’s name.  Kevin said, “I can’t remember it right now, but I remember it was unusual.”  He was lost deep in thought for a moment and then brightened.  “Player, that was it.”

“Player?” one of the parents asked.  “That is different.”

Suddenly I realized where Kevin had gotten that name.  The coach had sent out a team roster via email before we’d left, and yes, beside the 9th spot, there was listed the word, “Player”.  I was pretty sure it wasn’t the guy’s name but that the coach didn’t know the name so he just typed in ‘Player’.  Although there did exist a small chance that Player really was his name, I doubted it.  I quickly changed the subject so that I could keep the ‘Kevin damage’ to a minimum; maybe it wouldn’t occur to anyone else that Kevin was taking that emailed roster too literally.

A while later when we were alone, I told him that I thought the coach had just filled in the word  ‘player’ because he hadn’t known the boy’s name at that point.  “No, I think that’s his name,” Kevin replied.

“I don’t think so,” I told him, but he insisted that it was.  Later that afternoon, our team met the new player, whose name was Chris.  Kevin looked over at me and shrugged.

This literal meaning problem has trickled down to my sons, too, especially my two youngest.  When David was in kindergarten, the teacher sent home a note saying that he needed to write his name on the line provided on his worksheets. I would remind David every day when he went to school, “Write your name on the line,” but still he wouldn’t do it.  Finally he became exasperated at my telling him again, and he said, “But mom, I did write my name on the line.” He held his paper up to show me.  “See,” he explained, “I wrote it right in the middle of the line”.  Indeed it was on the line. I very clearly saw he was correct from his perspective.

“David,” I said, shaking with the sheer excitement of possibly having a breakthrough, “Write it on top of the line.”

The light bulb went on.  “Oh,” he said and erased his name that had been smack dab on the line so it wasn’t even legible and wrote it on top of the line instead. “Nobody ever said it had to be on top of the line,” he remarked.  I bit my tongue, thinking ahead to a day when he would have a similar miscommunication with his wife, bless her heart.  I’ll have to tell her that I tried my best – I really did, but it had been me against nature and nature won.

In first grade, I recall a question on some math work that asked, “What is the difference between 16 and 7” and David had written, “They are two different numbers.”  Kind of hard to argue with that, isn’t it?  And still it continued.  When David was around ten, I remember him reading a newspaper headline about an earthquake that said, “17,000 Killed in Quake”.  He looked up at me and asked, “Where’s Quake?”  I closed my eyes and rubbed my forehead; I felt a migraine coming on.

Jason has done some similar things.  On a first grade math worksheet, he did the first two sections.  Then on the third section were some addition and subtraction problems with the words “Addition or Subtraction” as the heading.  Jason wrote “Both”  in the space provided and moved on to the fourth section.  His teacher sent it home with the third section circled and the instructions “Please finish”.  But it wasn’t that he didn’t have time to do the problems – Jason actually thought he had finished since he interpreted “addition or subtraction” as a question.  And yes, the problems were either addition or subtraction so he’d written ‘Both’ as his answer. How could I explain this to his teacher? After all, she had two daughters and no sons, so she wasn’t accustomed to this type of literal logic as I was.

The most literal thing Jason has done, though, was the time when he was nine and unbeknownst to me was downstairs heating up his own vegetable soup. Of course, it was from a can and not homemade. Imagine my shock when I got downstairs and saw a can of soup in a bowl on the counter and when I asked Jason about it, he said he was letting it “cool off” after taking it out of the microwave.  What?  I don’t know how we averted a major problem having metal in there, but we did. I think God watches out for us a lot. When I got upset with Jason, he was adamant that he had followed the directions. He showed me the side of the can where it said, “Place soup in a microwaveable bowl and heat on medium for one minute.”

“Jason,” I explained to him, once again trying to call on every ounce of patience I had in my body, “it meant to pour the soup in a bowl, not just stick the can in there.”

“Ohhhh,” he replied, as one of my guys had yet another a light bulb moment. Then he added, “Well, it should have said that on the side of the can.” Only if a guy is making the soup, I wanted to tell him. Perhaps I should write to the Campbell’s soup company about this to avert any similar incidents.

Even Billy, who usually is a pretty clear thinker, has had his literal moments.  On a warm spring day, Kevin told Billy to put the fan in his bedroom window so we could circulate some fresh air in the house.  Later when Kevin didn’t notice any breeze as he should, he went to look at Billy’s window only to find the fan whirring away, but the window was closed.  Billy had indeed put the fan in the window, but that was it; he’d taken the instructions very literally.

I know taking everything so literal is a guy thing, and it’s not worth my time to worry about it. Still sometimes, I have to wonder what chip in their brain is missing.  I’m quite positive that women having to deal with this speeds up our aging process. Thanks for my wrinkles, boys.


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