On Facebook not long ago, I shared an exchange that happened between my twelve year old son and myself and it went like this:
T: What are you looking at?
Me: In this light, I can see just the tiniest beginning of a mustache on you.
T: Hmm. Really?
Me: Sure. It’s small, but yeah, I can see it.
T: (squinting at me) Like mother like son. (he breaks into hysterics)
I posted it because it made me laugh, but I was surprised to find that I thought about it a lot, after it happened. Not only did it make me laugh, the way kids often make us laugh, but it made me smile deeply. It warmed me.
If you’ve ever had a kid then you probably had at least a few of those moments where you breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe it was that they came into the world mostly healthy and ok. Or maybe it was when they looked you in the eye and smiled, or reached for a toy, or spoke their first word, held a pencil, ate peanuts without a reaction. It’s different for all of us, but there are those moments when you just say to yourself, “Thank goodness. Phew. They’re gonna be ok.”
The biggest one, of course, is kindness. When you start seeing your child think of someone else besides themselves, it’s a big relief. Clearly, kindness if life skill number one, but when the conversation above happened, I noticed I had a very similar reaction. It was a soft, inward sigh of relief. He’s got a sense of humor, I thought. Thank god, it will serve him well.
A sense of humor can get you out of a world of trouble and keep you afloat when things get really bad. You can be smart, beautiful and talented, but without a sense of humor, I wouldn’t want to trade places with you. If we were living in another time, a sense of humor would be like having the sharpest arrowheads, or a full set of teeth. Life is just going to be easier for you, and more fun for your tribe. A sense of humor without kindness is a recipe for disaster, but put them together, and I want to know you.
I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I will be having a disagreement and he will find a way to make me laugh. You know those moments when you’re so pissed, but then your beloved comes at you with a spot on Maggie Smith impression and gets you laughing?
Well, anyway, it’s the best. Provided the timing is right (there’s a 8.6 degree of difficulty here, guys, proceed with caution), it never fails to reverse the direction of a downward spiral. Maybe it’s not a total reconciliation, where he admits I was completely right and he was completely wrong, but at least the tone has changed. After a good laugh our hearts a little softer. Things go better.
We all know that you don’t have to be funny to have a sense of humor, although I think the two usually go together, if you listen closely enough. All my friends have a sense of humor, they just do. All of them make me laugh, but I’m sure not all of them think they are funny, which of course makes me love them even more.
My son has been making me laugh since he was born. Kids are a hoot, after all. The malapropisms, goofy outfits and knock knock jokes. Hilarious! But now the laughs are different. They reveal more of how he sees life, and more and more often he makes me laugh at the exact moment that I need to lighten up. If we’re locked in one of those lose/lose battles fueled by menopause and puberty and he makes me laugh, I’m almost always incredibly grateful to him. It’s usually just what I need to get my head screwed on, if it’s come, just ever so slightly, off.
I was at a funeral a while ago, where the adult child of the woman who had died said, with tears in his eyes and so much love, “When we were growing up, we all knew that if you could make Mom laugh, you could get away with almost anything. If you were in trouble, your best bet was to crack her up, which was easy to do.” Not a bad legacy, in my opinion. I’d be happy with that.
I hope I’m the kind of person who laughs easily, even when it’s at myself. I can’t imagine surviving motherhood (or childhood) any other way. So, just for today, I’m forgetting the math homework that hasn’t been finished, the dirty socks stuck in the couch, the twelve year old attitude, and remembering this: that, in addition to being a generally good egg, he can see the humor in life. He can see absurdity and irony and, apparently, he can see my mustache.
That’s ok, I’ll get him back. I’m his mom, I’ve got the baby pictures 🙂