Probably Not Good

My 16 year old grandson is a special needs student. He is special in so many ways. He can remember restaurant meals we ordered over a year ago. He can tell us if the waiter was rude or talked about a Star Wars movie. He has laser like focus about subjects that interest him like food, weather, and super heroes. He has learned how to engage in conventional banter but cannot follow complex topics to any great depth. He successfully uses common idioms but does not actually understand all the precise nuances. I am impressed how he has mastered this survival instinct out in the world. He is pleasant, laughs often, and is generally more popular than me. So I have started studying his techniques. On Tuesday, my wife asked if he had a bagel on his field trip. He answered this “yes or no” question with a favorite phrase: “Probably not.” Later as I left to jog, I asked if he wanted to join me. He answered, “Probably not.” I could not resist coaxing the obvious “no” out of him. The word “probably” often suggests “yes” but he uses it to soften “no.” He learned “probably” is a safe hedge against potential trouble. If chaos erupts in the household, he usually says, “That’s not good.” This is another place holder observation that does not touch on blame or offer tangible help as he awaits to see how events unfold. So now when my wife asks if I have loaded the dishwasher, I am going to float a “probably not” response. If she demands to know who tracked mud across the carpet, I will say, “That’s not good.” If such tactics fail, I will go back to blaming Sebastian.


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