"I was born in Bordeaux France" she would begin seriously, with a long drawl on the word Bordeaux. Immediately seven children would begin laughing, and in unison we would mouth silently, containing the giggles as she would predictably follow the sentence with:
"You gotta have something to laugh about, don't ya? What would life be if we didn't have something to laugh about."
How true were Blanche's wise words, and often memories of her high pitched voice invade my life as a parent these days. Blanche was in her nineties when my older sister Therese, who worked in a nursing home, befriended her. She became a family favorite and Therese brought her home for dinner frequently. Blanche was a storyteller, and by Thanksgiving we all knew the one story she told again and again. She loved that she had the full attention of a large family, and was blissfully unaware that we had heard the performance before, because she loved the sound of laughter.
Nobody in our family has ever forgotten Blanche, but for a time I did forget her message. Parenthood is hard work-- intense, stressful. Although it is also beautiful and rewarding there was a time after birthing three kids when the realities of motherhood set in that I lost my humor mojo, even though funny things were happening.
Like after my second child was born I showed up at a rather wealthy household to demonstrate for an art company I sold products for. After an amazingly attentive group of women seemed to be clinging to my every word and I was feeling like I was the greatest salesperson in the universe, the hostess gently took me aside after I had excused myself to use the ladies room.
"Um, did you know you have something sticking to your sweater?"
I looked behind my sleeve and in horror recognized the pantyliner clinging to my arm. I was horrified! Apparently it had gone through the wash and decided it wanted to stick around.
Or there was the time that I was teaching a music class after my youngest child was born. I was frazzled after a week of sick kids. A skyscraper full of laundry had accumulated in heaps as I took on the task of washing sheets that had vomit on them. My clothes that day needed to be what was the LEAST dirty in my pile, so I grabbed my favorite pair of jeans. In the middle of a class I felt something funny on my ankle. I peered down and to my horror I spotted a pair of underwear creeping their way out of the folds of my cuff. I froze in place, afraid if I made any move that the granny panties would come tumbling out and be the demise of my last bit of dignity.
During this time of way too much seriousness these embarrassing stories were not the least bit funny. But somewhere down the road I heard the ring of Blanche in the dusty trails of my memory. Life is much happier when you find things to laugh about. I took a long trip with all my baggage to the land of SERIOUS and STRESS. I only had seldom contact with my homeland of HUMOR during that time. After exploring many paths along my journey I recognized how much I love to laugh. I love to laugh at myself. I think I'm funny. My kids don't. Either way I find that engrossing them in my humor seems to make them smile too, even if they are laughing at my expense.
These days, I'll take it. And I thank a little old lady from Bordeaux, France for that!
Parents: What makes you laugh? Can you find humor during times of stress, and how has it helped you with parenting? Your thoughts and comments are loved at the Den!