There are many situations in life where you have to laugh or you’d cry. (I used to work in a nursing home, which was the perfect training ground).
I find it absolutely essential to keep a sense of humour when dealing with other people, especially little ones. Maybe I haven’t quite grown up yet, but if being a responsible adult means I can never see the funny side, I’d rather be a child. And anyway, I think it helps children gain a sense of perspective when they see I don’t take life’s ups and downs too seriously.
We all make mistakes along the way, and being able to acknowledge with a smile that you’re having a ‘dropping day’, or are a bit of a ‘forgetty-pants’ (as the four year old puts it when I’m being scatty) can help children accept their own limitations with less frustration.
One day I was preparing supper whilst dancing to an Abba CD with the three children, who were two, four and six. As I waved a bag of frozen peas above my head, it suddenly burst open and a cascade of peas showered over me and the floor…right on the spot where the new puppy had done a poo earlier. It was actually incredibly funny (judging by the childrens’ reaction) and I had to laugh as the cold peas ran down inside my bra. Suddenly I found myself spontaneously changing the lyrics of ‘Dancing Queen’:
“Lots of peas, covering meee, running everywhere! …. Yeah, I’ve lost my peas, oh where can they be, do I even care? Oh yeeeah!”
As the song changed to ‘Mama Mia’, my lyrics became a song about sweeping:
“Dearie dear, here I go again, sweeping, all those naughty little peas!”
I hammed up my performance, revelling in the lack of self-consciousness that the company of small children can release. The kids cavorted happily around me, hooting with laughter at my pea song .
It crossed my mind as the kids joined in with their own songs while helping me scoop up peas, that not only were we acting as a team engaging in cooperative helpful behaviour, but they were learning about rhyme, rhythm, metre and performance, as well as attitudes and ways of responding to an accident. If I had become upset or angry over the waste of peas or the inconvenience of having to clean up when I was busy, I bet I wouldn’t have had any happy little helpers. And what a different message I would have conveyed: that cleaning is a tedious chore, accidents are very upsetting, and fun stops when somebody makes a mistake. Instead, the pea mishap had turned into a joyous occasion of shared laughter and performance art.
It was very liberating.
I have also found that since play is the way kids relate to the world, I can make better relationships with them if I join in.
Children have a highly developed sense of the ridiculous and will turn anything and everything into a game. They don’t need expensive toys. Which is why I always save bubble wrap. They love it even more if I join in with the game and make bubble wrap outfits for them. Sometimes I think laughter is the fuel kids run on.
On a deeper note, shared laughter is incredibly strengthening, healing and intoxicating for kids. It releases a flood of happy emotions and endorphins that bind you all together. Laughing together at something she says or does (coupled with lots of hugs and physical play) gives your child the powerful internal message that she is worthy, accepted, loved and strong together with you. It promotes resilience and self-confidence for the future: no matter what the world throws at them, they know they are strong and loved.