We were about to walk out the door on our way to school, when Charlotte asked, “Mom, have you ever laughed?”
She wasn’t being sarcastic. She was asking me earnestly if I ever laughed. I thought, Wow my child hasn’t seen me laugh in the 5 years she’s been alive?? Something is wrong here.
Her words resonated in my head throughout the day, as I turned her question over and over in my mind. Was I really walking around in a state of misery 24-7? I certainly didn’t feel that way…
Then I realized what she was asking. She wasn’t asking if I was miserable all of the time. She wasn’t asking about my smiles or my chuckles (many of which I give throughout the day). She was asking about the belly laughs.
Can you picture the belly laugh of a child? It is the cutest thing ever! The first thing you notice is the grinning little white teeth and gums. Then you hear the sound of hearty laughter as they throw their head back. And then they often bend over, clutching their sides.
And what makes them laugh like this?
Usually the word “poop.”
That’s all you have to say to a child: “Poopy poop poop.” And you are gifted with the most incredible belly laugh, one that rings in your ears just thinking about it.
At one point in our lives, that belly laugh was instantaneous. As a child, you could access it at a moment’s notice. But as we get older, that belly laugh is tougher to find. Perhaps the things that once made us laugh aren’t funny anymore. Or perhaps there are fewer things to laugh about.
It was 6 months ago that Charlotte asked me if I’ve ever laughed and, ever since, I’ve tried to let that belly laugh back in. I know she sees my smiles and my chuckles. But I want to show her that I can belly laugh too. I want to show her that I’m having fun with life (even if I’m often stressing about many aspects of it…).
I thought back to my own life and two people I love to see belly laugh — my parents. There’s nothing better than my dad getting red in the face and laughing so hard that he cries. I don’t want my parents to worry or stress. I love to see them happy — to see them truly experiencing lighthearted joy.
Some of the most wonderful belly laughs I’ve ever seen came from my grandmother, who we lost in August. She used to say, “I love to laugh!” And it was true. Even in her 80’s, she allowed herself to go to that silly place. She didn’t constantly mull over the hardships of life and say “Woe is me.” Just the opposite. Even when she had cancer, she laughed and laughed and laughed.
I want to make an earnest effort each day to tap into my belly laugh, especially around the kids. I want them to see their mom having fun with life. I don’t want to teach them that life is difficult and grueling and tough. I want them to see the lighthearted side of things.
And something else… I don’t want my kids to lose their ability to access that genuine belly laugh. But if they see that I’ve lost it, why wouldn’t they just follow in my footsteps?
The tricky part is that it’s hard for me to laugh at “Poopy poop poop” jokes. But we’ve started to move out of that territory a little bit. Emmy now puts things on her head at the dinner table, and there’s something very funny about her saying, “Napkin on my head!”
The good news is that my efforts haven’t gone unnoticed! We were in the car yesterday when Charlotte said something silly from the backseat, and I genuinely belly laughed.
“I love to see you laugh.”