Even the most confident parent gets stressed out. Running around with kids and having to meet their needs each day is challenging. But the silver lining to the challenges of parenting is the relationship we form with our children and the delight that can be harvested from seeing their budding personalities. One key element that can lighten a mundane day is humor.
Recently, I was picking up my three-year-old son Ezra from preschool. When I walked outside to find him, his teacher called us over and said, “Ezra, let’s have a little talk with Mom.” Immediately my heart began beating quickly and a lump arose in my throat. What did my little rascal do? Ezra took my hand and looked intently at his teacher. She smiled at us both and said, “Now Ezra, ask Mommy when it is okay to go potty outside.”
Ezra looked at me and waited for an answer. My mind was racing; my husband and I let Ezra pee in our backyard all of the time and, in a pinch, behind a tree. I wanted to answer the question honestly and I also wanted to correctly satisfy what the teacher was thinking. I was sure that I was going to get into trouble. She looked at me peculiarly and said, “You potty outside when you are camping, right Mom? I thought “Oh right!” I said. “Right, you potty outside when you are camping, or at our house when in the backyard.”
Ezra said, “Okay, but it is fun to pee off the slide.”
That evening I reported the news to my husband and we began to giggle uncontrollably and soon convulsed with gut-wrenching laughter. Just picturing Ezra confidently standing at the top of the slide in all of his glory was too much. What if he had hit a kid below? That would have been an awkward conversation. My husband said, “That’s my boy!”
We also laughed at my total inability to recall what is appropriate and the worry I felt about giving the wrong answer.
Our laughter helped us feel closer as parents and helped defuse any tension about Ezra’ s potty incident. It also gave us a chance to feel the mutual love we have for our son, even in his less-than-ideal moments. It was our child’s first public reprimand and laughter felt like the most appropriate response.
What laughter does for us
Psychologists and scientists have been studying the effects of laughter in humans for many years. There is an abundance of information on the subject. What I found most applicable and beneficial for mothers and parents is its ability to reduce stress, and enhance intimacy. Laughter actually relaxes the body on physiological and emotional levels. It also binds people together through the equal enjoyment that is created from a good laugh.
What I found, and what certainly rings true with my family, is that when we laugh together we feel connected and happy, fostering a bond that helps create a safe family structure for discussing the depth and breadth of our emotions. Often, when there is tension between my husband and I, a well-intentioned joke can lighten the mood and make room for the tension to lift. Consequently, we find ourselves in better moods and the kids instantly become more relaxed.
Laughter is an underused resource in our culture that can greatly improve a families’ quality of life. Next time you find yourself in an awkward situation with your child or ready to explode with frustration, try to laugh. If you can’t seem to find the laughter within, try peeing off the top of a slide at the playground! I’m under good authority that it’s really fun.