When your child was little, you laughed all the time. The ‘you’ I’m talking about is yourself, not you and your child. You laughed with abandon, celebrating the sheer delight of being with your child. As his antics grew, your laughter grew alongside.
Not that the mischief he got up to was always funny; what made you laugh was the pleasure he got out of whatever he was doing.
Crumbling biscuits and throwing the crumbs around? Not funny. Messy, wasteful, and he should be taught not to do it. But he has so much fun grinding the biscuits to crumbs and trying to strew them as far as possible in all directions that the smiles and laughter spill out of you – almost against your will. 🙂
You let him be. He is ‘only a child’. There is still time enough for you to teach him about proper behavior, what is done and not done. And you laugh.
Inevitably, you begin the teaching: ‘good’ children say this, do that, behave one way and not another… You need to do this – otherwise, your darling will grow into a little savage. Atlas could not have undertaken his responsibility with greater diligence.
But you are so intent on your ‘teaching’ role, that you forget there are other facets to being a parent. It’s almost as if once you switch on the teaching mode, you are unable to switch it off. Slowly but surely, you squeeze the spontaneity out of your child.
“Don’t sit like that.”
“Don’t laugh so immoderately.”
“Why don’t you say ‘Hello’ properly when I introduce you to my friends?”
Sometimes, you hear yourself and wonder: “Am I going too far? Am I taking away his breathing space?” But the next moment, ‘sanity’ re-asserts itself. You need to reinforce the lesson so that your child learns it well.
And slowly, the laughter drains out of your life – your life and your child’s life. Your child’s life because she feels like she’s on stage every moment – every action word gesture thought is evaluated to help her become a ‘better person’ so that she can ‘fulfill her potential’. She doesn’t feel free to be herself. After a bit, she might even forget who she is, because she’s so busy trying to fit the mold you’ve fashioned for her.
You lose the laughter because she no longer enjoys what she’s doing – not the way she enjoyed it when she chose what to do and did it her way.
It was her enjoyment in what she was doing that made you laugh. Now, her enjoyment is gone, and so is your laughter.
What makes it worse is that you have put on the mantle of an adult – you have got over your rash youth, and are now seriously into the business of life: reaching and surpassing milestones at work (whatever the work might be, including running the house), raising your children to be responsible human-beings, planning for your retirement and the children’s education, performing social, community and other roles… the list goes on.
Even if something is funny, you feel it compromises your dignity to burst into loud guffaws – after all, you are not an irresponsible person any longer – you have ‘important’ things to do; a smile, a chuckle – that’s enough, and then you can get on with your work.
It’s not easy to make you laugh. Er – have you noticed? Nobody’s even trying any longer to make you laugh. Why should they? You have your proper, professional business-like image of yourself as an adult, getting on with the serious, heavy-weight task of life – who are they to mess with it?
Your connection with your child becomes more remote.
What if you forgot your dignity for a moment? What if you forgot you were an adult? What if you forgot about the image you’re creating?
If it’s funny and you feel like laughing, just laugh. (I feel ridiculous even writing this. It’s almost as if I were saying: “Now that your head is finally out of the water, breathe in order to stay alive”.)
If propriety is so important to you, laugh just at home, only with family and friends who make you feel ‘safe’.
Don’t worry that your child will think you out of control.
Don’t worry about setting a good example for her.
Don’t worry about how your face looks when you laugh, or that your teeth will show, or your face might turn red, or you might laugh too loudly or sound strange, or begin to gasp for breath.
Don’t worry about whether others are laughing or not.
Don’t worry about what others will think of your sense of humor. (I had a friend who accused me of having the most awful sense of humor. “Tell me when the joke is over and it’s time to laugh,” was his constant refrain, but it didn’t deter me. 🙂 )
If you feel like laughing, just laugh. (aka “if you feel like breathing, just breathe” 🙂 )
Are you shaking your head and thinking: “What rot! Of course I laugh!” Well, great! 🙂 Laugh more! 🙂
If you keep the laughter alive, the ability to laugh with your child alive, you will be able to live through the difficult times because you will always find a point of connection, however unwilling you or your child might be to connect at that time! 🙂