I am continually amazed (and amused) at my 2 1/2 year old’s development of a sense of humor. It’s astonishing to me that in such a short amount of time he has gained enough of a grasp of reality and the world in which he lives to understand irony and a sense of the ridiculous. It began with a firm grounding in language that enabled him to recognize which were “real” words and which were “siwwy.” He would then make up the most absurd combinations of words such as opisnook and manganash and as soon as he said them he would bust into hysterical laughter. He didn’t need anyone else to confirm that it was funny. He knew. And we could go back and forth for half an hour making up outlandish words in turn and breaking for bouts of laughter. It is so refreshing that something so simple and silly can make even a grown up laugh.
Then, as his handle on the world grew even stronger, he began to appreciate the foolish hilarity of slapstick. Recently, as I was making him lunch, I let him watch an episode of Sesame Street on Netflix. As I was getting everything ready I heard him start laughing in the other room. The laughter grew into a rolling, un-self-conscious, un-contained giggle as though someone was tickling him mercilessly and he was about to fall out of his chair. And what was causing this display? Grover continuously tripping on a banana peel and it eventually landing on his head – the first door leading to the world of the Three Stooges, Mr. Bean, and even Jim Carey. And as I watched him from the doorway to the room, I was struck by the independence of his humor. No one was in there with him giving him queues about what was “supposed” to be funny. No one was making him laugh with tickles or funny faces or any of the other gimics we’ve been using since before he could see our faces clearly. He just knew, deep in his belly, that Grover was being ridiculous and it was funny!
And last night, before bed, he told his first joke. Daddy read him a story that had a joke in it and he remembered it and told it to me when I came to tuck him in. “Who goes to bed with their shoes on?” I don’t know Aiden, who? “A HORSE!” Bahahahahaha! I know, I know, it’s a terrible entrance into his world of joke telling, but he was so proud of himself, I couldn’t help but laugh with him. I fear we are in for many more corny jokes before Daddy teaches him all the subtleties of a dry wit.
The development of a sense of humor is not one of those things you see on developmental milestone charts at the pediatricians office or in popular parenting magazines and websites, but it is one of the most sophisticated changes I’ve seen in him so far. One that marks him distinctly as an individual and a kid, and not just a needy baby or toddler. I am excited to see how it grows!
It’s true what they say that laughter is the best medicine. Today I had the distinct privilege of spending my Sunday morning in an after-hours clinic because of a stabbing headache that has lasted 3 days (and counting). I thought it might be due to an ear infection, otherwise I might have toughed it out. But I was fully prepared, upon leaving the clinic with no helpful news, to embark upon my terrible day full of head pain and crabbiness and exhaustion. Thankfully my boys had other plans. Jonathan took a sick day so he could take care of Aiden while I went to the doctor and he managed to wash, fold, and put away all the laundry and do the dishes while I played with Aiden, took a nap and read my book. Yes, I am a lucky woman. And we both discovered (again) that there is nothing quite like the laughter of a child to make you forget your woes. Aiden was in a remarkable mood and was constantly finding something to giggle about. Like pretending that dozens of kitties were coming out of the tiny box in his hand and tickling us with their tongues. Or spinning in circles till he collapsed on the floor and watched the room spin out of the corner of his eye. Later, because we were all getting cabin fever, and I wasn’t about to cook, we picked up some supper and went to the park. There was a storm brewing and it was gloriously breezy for such a hot afternoon. Aiden tromped around the park barefoot, in true boy fashion, and laughed at everything he saw. And not just little laughs. These were full-faced, throw your head back kind of laughs that were absolutely infectious.
As we drove home, Aiden requested his favorite music, an album of high quality children’s bluegrass by David Holt. And, as always, he requested his favorite track, “I Got A Bullfrog,” which is a musical blooper of epic proportion consisting of at least 30 seconds of laughter that the singer is trying desperately and unsuccessfully to get under control. I LOVE that they left this “mistake” in the recording. Every time it comes on Aiden grins from ear to ear in the back seat and laughs along. I can’t help but join him no matter how many times I have heard it.
At home, after supper, I let him have a piece of cake and after every bite, he wriggled with glee, doing an excited little cake dance while he . . . you guessed it . . . laughed. By the end of the day as I felt the piercing pains in my head again, I realized that although the pain had persisted all day, I had not thought about it in hours. It had not dominated my day as I had feared it would. And I had laughter to thank. I wonder how much healthier, and of course happier, we would all be if we learned to be a bit more light-hearted and laugh a lot more readily.