I don’t laugh enough. I’ve been told that I’m funny, and also that I’m a sad person. I think that both of these are probably true to an extent. It’s accepted as generally true that people who are funny are also sad. I can’t speak for anyone else in this, but many comedians will tell you that humor is a cover for something else. In fact, actor and comedian Kevin Pollak has made a documentary about it.
You know who makes me laugh, though? Genuinely, unguardedly, seemingly without trying? My kids. They get to me every time. And the only thing that is better than my children making me laugh (with them, not at them, as Robin Williams would say) is the first time that they laughed.
As a parent, do you remember when you were sure that your baby was really laughing, and that it wasn’t “just gas?” I don’t think I’ve ever felt so successful as a father. When our oldest was about six months old I would spend seemingly hours playing peek-a-boo, making faces, doing anything that would produce just one more baby guffaw.
Until recently, there has not been much research into this. But a recent study of baby laughter has some interesting things to say about how they develop a sense of humor, and how they learn, from parents and siblings and other people around them, what is funny and how to respond to it.
From the article:
“At around 6 months old, children often look to their parents for cues before interpreting an event as humorous. At around 9 -11 months, infants are able to recognize what makes their parents smile & laugh and then attempt to elicit these responses from caregivers.”
What is remarkable is how complex this behavior is, and how early it develops in children. They learn how people will respond differently depending on the situation. And this sense of humor will carry over into their adult lives: “The ability to interpret humorous situations and respond appropriately is one that may be related to relationship satisfaction among adults.”
My daughters can crack each other up like nobody’s business, especially when I have asked them to, say, put on their pajamas and brush their teeth. And I know that they will continue to find each other hilarious. I frequently hear my wife giggling helplessly as she is texting her sister. When she tells me what’s so funny, I might not get it. It’s like a secret language. And it seems to do them good.
The benefits of laughter are well documented. “Laughter is the best medicine,” after all. But a sense of humor is also linked to the way we see the world, the way we understand and think about things.
Families are the laboratory in which these skills take shape. The stories we share about ourselves and about them when they were “little,” and the jokes we tell around the dinner table, are actually helping their brains to develop.
My four year-old:
(Chocolate cupcake who?)
“Oh, I didn’t know you were a chocolate cupcake! Knock knock.”
And so on.
I’m grateful that my kids can make me laugh. I needed that.
Thanks to Cyrel Gable at Parenting Success Network for suggesting this topic.