If you’ve been reading my blog entries, you may have the impression that I am very serious, which is not the whole truth. I am very serious about being Godly. I take following God’s word very seriously. I seriously want to know what God’s word says about how I should think and live and be, and I seriously want people to know about Jesus, but I LOVE to laugh, which comes in handy as a mom.
God gave us the ability to laugh, to be full of joy. He even told us how to heal the wounds of a fallen world.
Proverbs 17:22 “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Nowhere else in my life has the need for a joyful spirit and the desire to laugh been more important than in my parenting. I mean, let’s be real. Parenting, even for Jesus, is full of puke and poop, sharp as heck Legos, and spilled milk. We can choose to cry over it or laugh. While the mess is the hard part as parents, it is how we handle it that will give our children the tools to handle the messes in their lives. I would much rather my child laugh and smile and learn to do it better next time instead of be frightened to ever make a mistake.
If we face facts, little kids can be irritating. They don’t obey. They seemingly work in reverse to any actual goal you’ve asked of them. My child is up and awake and cheery, except any day I want to go anywhere or have anything I need to do. The absolute converse reaction to what needs to happen is so absolute that it defies the laws of physics.
Yesterday, my husband was taking her into the woods on a little excursion, and she had put on her own shoes, on the wrong feet, yet again.
Daddy, on correcting her shoes again, was getting a little frustrated, “What are you doing? It goes against the odds. You can’t possibly get this wrong 100% of the time.”
She piped up, “Yes, I can.”
Her answer was so genuine that we all just laughed. Instead of being stressed about getting her out of the door, we were all able to laugh and enjoy this incredibly brief moment in time. She is only going to be adorable and funny like this for a short time. And sometimes you have to just let her walk around with her shoes on the wrong feet and laugh about it.
Maybe not everyone’s child is like mine, but when I get frustrated or short tempered, it pretty much short circuits her completely. The harder and firmer I get with her, the more she is like a robot on repeat, “Does not compute.” I literally can get NOWHERE with her. But if I laugh, make her laugh, make it fun, celebrate the silliness instead of the reality of mushy cereal or goop in her hair, she is almost instantly back in the game, up and running. Everyday, I see how much a joyful spirit makes a difference in her, when I have one toward her, and when I see her have one toward life.
Just a couple of days ago, I was combing her hair to get out the door for the day. It was bath day, but we usually save bath time for right before bed, so her hair wasn’t as easy to comb as usual. If you’ve never tried to comb a 4 year old’s hair, I’m not sure I can describe the torture effectively, so bear with me. My child has straight hair, stick straight, so it really gets very small knots unless it has hung into her food. But the second I pick up her comb, she starts to snivel. “Be very careful,” she pleads. I grip her hair to cushion every stroke, but still she screams and cries and carries on as if I were murdering her. Yes, even after anti-tangle spray and starting gently at the ends, child protective services would seriously wonder about us if they were only listening to her cries. I have immense sympathy for any parent of a curly-headed child.
But this day, she was definitely playing it up, and out of exasperation, I cried, “Man, you have a lot of gunk in your hair! I don’t even know what that is,” mentally running down what she had eaten since her last bath less than 48 hours ago.
“Probably potatoes,” she chirped, and I chuckled because she answered a rhetorical question so matter-of-factly, plus, we hadn’t had any potatoes in weeks. Then she added, “or maybe chimpanzees.”
Hilarious! I couldn’t hold back the cackling laughter. Her eyes lit up. She laughed with me, instantly calmed, and we were able to finish combing her hair without any further drama. I was able to find the joy in this tiny human who sees the world so completely differently than I do, in such a magical way that chimpanzees in her hair was a completely reasonable explanation. And my whole day was brighter because I remembered to celebrate the joyful moment instead of get frustrated at the challenges.
Because really, parenting is challenge after challenge. Letting these momentary struggles frustrate me would just destroy my family and the haven I am trying to create for my children and hard-working husband. Plus getting angry and complaining all the time would certainly destroy any witness in my life.
It isn’t always easy. Bedtime is one of the hardest for me. I’ve been patient and kind and even-tempered all day, then it is 8 o’clock, and I’m struggling to get through the routine without crying myself.
About a year ago, I was tiredly dragging myself to put her to bed when she decided that she was afraid of all the dinosaurs in her room. I summoned all my patience to explain that dinosaurs are extinct, what extinction meant, how TV and movies make them seem alive, but they are just fancy drawings or computer images, etc. I was really sure I had helped her with all my logical reasoning to understand that there was simply no way dinosaurs could be in her room. I kissed her goodnight one more time and left the room. The second I shut the door, she shouted, “OK, dinosaurs, do not eat me!” We now have a water bottle we use as anti-dinosaur/monster/bear spray so she feels her room has been adequately cleansed. Plus when I ‘accidentally’ spray her, she laughs, diffusing her fears.
Ecclesiastes 3 is a good reference about the balance of life. We are going to experience joy and sorrow in turns.
Ecclesiastes 3:4 “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”
After spending the last year mostly being unable to walk, I lost my ability to dance. Despite trying to have a brave face, I mourned my physical disability and its limitations a lot. So now that I’m finally healing, when she asks me to dance randomly, usually when I’m in the middle of something, I try to always say yes. We jump and jive, twirl and flop, and dance like no one is watching just for the joy of the music and being together. Laughing together. Never underestimate the power of being silly with your children! Even just 5 minutes can change the direction of the rest of the day.
I have days I watch the news and am legitimately frightened that I will very soon start sending her out into this broken, Godless world. I won’t be there to protect her, cushion every blow, guard her tender heart. Taking care that I laugh and dance with her when I can is important. The happiness and joy we can store up now may tide us through lean times. Plus, she is learning to laugh at the spilled milk of life which is a good lesson for us all about the God given, best medicine there is.