I grew up with a family who taught me to laugh and have fun. I was fortunate to have many aunts and uncles, cousins and second cousins, and so on. There were numerous “clowns” in my large, extended family and we were all a little goofy. None of us were afraid to make fools of ourselves by doing something immature, and we could laugh at just about anything.
Some of my early childhood influences were television comedies: two of my earliest memories are of watching “The Benny Hill Show” and “Mr. Bill.” The latter is a classic sketch from Saturday Night Live where a clay figure would end up being smashed or blown up. I enjoyed watching stand-up comedy and all types of funny shows with my family.
Additionally, there were jokes. I heard lots and lots of jokes from my dad and uncles, who would share their dirty and tasteless sense of humor with me. Together with the characters in my family and comedies on film, a strange and twisted sense of humor was formed. Nothing really offends me.
This should have prepared me for the types of situations I encounter as a parent. A healthy sense of humor is just about the best thing to manage the ups and downs of having young children. The reality is, I sometimes find myself too worried about order and cleanliness, not losing stuff, etc., and it makes me miserable at times. I wish I could laugh at everything, either immediately or shortly after the fact. But if I’m honest, I have to say that losing my patience often gets the better of me.
The trials and tribulations are rarely funny at first. Kids getting sick in bed or in the car, accidents and injuries, huge messes in the house, etc. are no fun at all. The initial experience is unpleasant, if not traumatic. However, after getting knocked down and then kicked while you’re down, there comes a moment when you just have to laugh.
Just the other night, we had a moment that reminded me to find humor in tough situations. After a really long day trying to ski with three young children, my son got wildly sick at dinner. After we finished cleaning up that mess, it happened again once he was in bed. The next morning, I noticed the moment catastrophe struck. We had been eating cheese fondue, and we never, ever, leave anything more than cheese residue in the pot. I laughed when I saw a fondue fork and pierced slice of apple stuck in the cheese, surrounded by five nuggets of garlic and the crackle of love that could have been. The dark, low point of our day had been frozen in time.
Another thing that has reminded me to laugh a little more is a book I just started reading, titled Beyond The Pale, by Ken Grossman, who started the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. The first chapter tells of his experiences with his neighborhood gang of teenage friends. First off, it reminded me that my journey with my own kids has only just begun. If I can’t handle my current gang of four- to nine-year-olds, the teenage years are going to kill me!
Secondly, it has reminded me that kids will be kids, and they need to experience a bit of trouble to understand how life works and to find themselves. Many stories from the book tell of mischievous outings. On the surface, it appears to be a bunch of troublemaking and failures, but deeper down, these are cases where brilliant minds were breaking free from the captivity of rules and conformity.
I laugh as I read these stories, but I realize that it certainly wasn’t funny to someone back then. I am sure I won’t be laughing if tools are stolen from my garage, or if my child is removed from school for a week for dropping stink bombs (even if that does demonstrate a strong knowledge of chemistry).
There were times in my childhood when I fought the system and challenged authority. My kids will probably do the same, and I will have to remember that it is not all bad. We all have our own style, and they need to find theirs. It may not be enjoyable when my kids are difficult and causing me grief, but I have to remember that life would be pretty boring if it were not for these moments. It might take some time, but we can almost always look back on difficult times and laugh about them.
Text and photo by Brian Wilson
Brian is the father of three children. He teaches golf and coordinates a Zurich Dads’ group in his spare time. Email: email@example.com
Illustration by BVisual.
Beth works as special educational needs teacher. She graduated from university after studying visual communication, specialising in illustration, and then went on to do post graduate studies in education. Beth’s been working as a freelance creative alongside her teaching, and has undertaken projects involving portraits and editorial illustrations under her artist’s name BVisual.