Laughter with your family is worth cultivating. When we learn to laugh at ourselves, and when we learn to laugh with our kids and spouse, life is immeasurably enriched.
I remember times when one of the kids did something wrong that was in fact funny. For years, I thought, "I can't laugh at that, or it will encourage them!" But as they grew, and I matured, I realized it was perfectly ok to laugh, and then explain that it was NOT appropriate for that to happen again!
There are times in our lives we forget to laugh. At least, there have been in mine. Times when I not only forgot to laugh, but even, I think, forgot HOW to laugh!
During the worst years of my own personal depression, I would go days on end with little to smile about. One of the things that was so surprising to me during that first year of recovery was that I was laughing. I had to learn how to crack jokes again, and for any of you who have a six-year old in the house, or remember that particular phase of development, this is not all wondrous discovery... some of it can be downright humiliating as we try out jokes on people who simply do not appreciate our perspective! I got better at reading the people around me in time, but the entire experience was both exhilarating and poignantly humbling.
During the years of depression I do not mean I did not laugh or smile at all, I did. I laughed at the humor of others, read funny books and enjoyed them, still liked light romantic comedies. But there was little spontaneous humor in me, at my life. My husband did not joke much at home either. I know we both lost a little of the ebullience that is native to us. Growing up, I was often thought too frivolous by my father. I hope I am not light minded about things that require serious thought. But I never could see why I should not enjoy life's absurdities.
I have a friend who said she wanted to marry a man who would make her laugh. And she did. She is happy with him. I did not want that, laughter always came pretty easy. I just wanted someone who would laugh with me. And he did. Perhaps that is why losing the laughter was so noticeable in retrospect. Funny that we did not notice it go, or feel that it was gone. We only noticed how good it felt when it came back!
There were other times that happened too. And again, we did not notice that part of us had gone, we only noticed the brightness of the return. I can look back now and see three distinct times when the effervescence went out of living for a while. It was not that life became dull or all dark...but it was like winter. Winter is good life, but oh, how we love the sunshine and warmth when it returns!
One year my mother-in-law gave us a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant for our anniversary. I cannot even remember which one it was! But I remember we had been in the middle of one of those intense times when time together was scarce, life was hard, and sometimes grim, and while things were interesting, they were not often outright fun!
We went out to dinner, Grandma also had the wisdom to offer to baby-sit! We sat there for the first little while trying to find things to talk about, and during a silence, we happened to overhear the conversation at a table next to us. We did not intend to eavesdrop, the man was talking loud, and his story was captivating!
He told of going to make a house call, and knocking on the door at a particular house. The door was opened, and the screen door was closed, so he could hear into the house. A little old lady was vacuuming the floor. He knocked and rang the doorbell, and then heard a screechy "Come in!". So he did. The lady kept vacuuming, then turned around, and cried out in surprise! How had this man come to be in her living room? He told her that he had heard her say to come in, and she pointed to the parrot in the corner. The parrot had answered, not the lady!
For some reason this just hit us as the funniest thing we had heard. We laughed together till tears came down our cheeks, all the while trying not to let on that we had overheard the conversation next to us!
We discovered that the Lord has a sense of humor also. One night we gathered together as a family to read scriptures. It was one of those humid, breathlessly hot summer evenings when all the windows were open, several fans were blowing at high speed, and we all still sat there drained and dripping sweat. We opened up our scriptures to where we had left off the night before, and began to read:
And the day shall come that will burn as an oven, and all that do wickedly shall be as stubble...
I could just feel the smile of Heavenly Father as we stumbled onto that one! Oddly, I told that to a pastor of another church once, and he did not get it. I wondered why.
I think when things got tough, the hardest thing to keep as far as a sense of humor was the ability to see humor in our own life. I think we are getting a little better at it, but I also think that having teenagers has prompted some of that. It has also caused our humor to regress a little, I fear! Something about adolescent humor makes everybody get a bad case of giggles at things they ought not!
Teenagers do manage to keep one from taking oneself too seriously though, and I think this has to be a good thing. When they begin developing a genuinely funny sense of humor, appreciation for the absurd, and that individual twist on mild practical joking, it makes life a lot more fun.
My oldest daughter has been the biggest surprise there. She is fairly moody much of the time, so a delightfully refreshing sense of humor was not the thing we looked for next in her. It has been like fresh air in our home.
This child is the one who notices the literal jokes in the way we word things, and deliberately twists them into a meaning we had not intended. She once called a boy "Guess" for an entire evening because that is what he said when she asked him his name. She packs her father's lunches and puts bologna in with the red band still on it.
All of our kids have a talent for quoting phrases they have heard. They quote lines from songs or movies at appropriate, and sometimes absurd times. Their choice of what to quote is often unexpected and funny. I think this started at a very early age, we remember David eating peas at the age of three, saying, "Two to beam up." and eating two peas. Recently at the mention of pie, Betsy popped off with a perfect Scots accent, "But ah don't want to be a pie, Ah don't like gravy!" For a six year old, her imitation of the accent was quite a surprise!
I love the fact that though I know them well, my family can surprise me with laughter. I enjoy it when my husband pops off with some funny crack at something one of us has done. It is so good that the fun has not died or become predictable after 18 years. Oh, we have the hackneyed jokes that have been worn to frazzled familiarity and are still aired regularly, but interspersed with the expected is a refreshing splash of discovery and originality that makes me really wonder, what will they think of next...and I look forward to finding out!.