One of the best jokes I’ve ever heard was told by an unwitting comic: my child.
We were, as usual, running late for some destination. It was a place we’d never been before, and I had been a wee bit distracted throughout the day prior to us leaving. As a result, I didn’t really have good directions, and we left completely behind schedule. I tried to take a shortcut and it put us into traffic, only serving to delay us further. My precocious six-year-old daughter was doing her best from the back seat to keep the mood light.
I apologized to her for being so harried.
“It’s not your fault, mama. It’s my fault,” she said.
“Why is it your fault, sweetie? I chose to go this way.”
“Yeah,” she replied. “But I agreed with you.”
Granted, I don’t think she was trying to be funny, but it served to make me laugh and it cut the tension. She reveled in hearing how I got such a kick out of what she said. True, I’m her mom, so I’m supposed to feel like everything she says are like pearls falling from her mouth.
But what made it one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard was that she herself knew she was being humorous when she said it. She was going for the laugh. And she got exactly what she wanted.
That kind of parental feedback can be such a self-esteem booster for a child. I know both my children seek out that kind of reaction from me and their dad, as each of their own senses of humor starts to mature. They’re beginning to grow out of the nonsensical, kid-like sillies, at least when it comes to trying to get an adult to laugh.
Just the other day, our whole family was together, and I was telling my husband about something clever my daughter had said earlier in the day. As my son listened, his sibling rivalry gene kicked in: “Mom, now tell Dad about my joke.”
His sense of humor isn’t too shabby either. For instance, we were returning home from a doctor’s appointment the other day, and I let him play a game on my iPhone during the half-hour drive back. As we neared our house, I asked him to wrap it up. But like any red-blooded 10-year-old boy, he figured he didn’t have to do anything until at least the third warning. This was a video game after all—important stuff for sure.
“Okay, off my phone,” I said, my voice getting a bit edgier.
“One sec, one sec.” (He probably threw a pre-teen eye-roll in there for good measure.)
“That’s it. Turn it off. You are officially D-U-N done!” (I was trying to be firm yet playful with the misspelling.)
His response? “You know, Mom, your spelling is almost as bad as your attitude.”
Yes, while beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, humor is most prevalent in the ear of a parent. But I’d think other people not related to my son might get at least a chuckle out of that one.
My kids have seen the kind of response they get from their parents and friends, and are actively trying to hone their funny bones. My daughter watched as her older brother and I talked about what sarcasm was. So once when she appropriately asked me if I was being sarcastic in front of a store clerk, I saw his impressed reaction that a six-year-old could recognize the concept of this kind of humor.
Sure, there have been lots of unintentional funnies they’ve both come out with randomly. My daughter once challenged her brother with this golden nugget: “Last one in is a rockin’ egg!”
There was the time she was hanging out with her dad on the couch watching TV. From her vantage point, she was sitting a little above my husband as he reclined back above the cushion.
“There’s your blank spot, Daddy,” she said.
“My blank spot??”
“Yeah,” she replied. “The spot with no hair.”
She may not have known she’d be coming out with something humorous, but in the reaction we give them, we teach them how to sense what’s funny and what’s not. When my son was younger, he used to repeatedly tell the same joke to the same person and it lost its luster after about the third telling. We talked about it, and he started to get the sense of comic timing—as well as when to make an exit.
There’s certainly profitability when kids are good at telling jokes or coming out with unintended one-liners. Just ask Bill Cosby and Art Linkletter who both were able to make a mint with “Kids Say the Darnedest Things,” their television show spotlighting exactly that.
But a study out last year showed that laughter really is the best medicine. Researchers found that the area of the brain stimulated by humor was also the area of the brain that helps humans relieve stress and cope with the unexpected in life.
Laughter is most definitely the best medicine if what the researchers found is true. So in laughing with my kids I’m giving them tools not just to be found funny with friends and in social situations, but I’m also helping them deal with life in a healthier, less stressed way.
And most definitely they’re doing the same for me. If that doesn’t rock your egg, then I don’t know what will!