Choose Laughter

Though I wrote this with families of special needs children in mind, the thought occurs to me that maybe there are others who could use some laughter as well. Perhaps your child is not one who has special needs, but part of God’s specific plan for him was to bring joy and laughter into your home. Enjoy!

Choose laughter.

If you are the parent of a special child, you know that some of the things your special child does are downright funny. So laugh. Some of the things he says are funny. Laugh. Some of the things that happen as you deal with agencies and service providers are so ridiculously absurd that they border on hilarious. Choose to laugh.

In my BC days (Before Children), I taught Spanish in a local high school. I had the privilege of teaching Spanish for Heritage Speakers, a class for students who already spoke the language. One of my students was a young man from El Salvador. He had escaped his homeland during a time of war. This student told me jokes almost every day, and I enjoyed repeating them to the other Spanish teachers.

One day a colleague asked me, “Patsy, why is it all the jokes you tell us in Spanish are about dead people?”

Oh, my! I had not even realized it. I said, “I don’t know. I just tell the ones Willie tells me.”

The next day I asked Willie about it. He explained it this way: “Miss, in my country, we saw a lot of death. We had to choose. If you didn’t laugh about it, you cried. I chose to laugh.”

I often tell parents who homeschool special kids, “You are homeschooling in a war zone.” All bets are off regarding anything normal in life. Normal is just a setting on your dryer anyway. Nothing is normal in my home. Every day is one continuous interruption, one surprise after another, one event after another. Nothing is smooth. No two days are alike. We make attempts at schedules, but they are not rigid–they cannot be.

So if I, like Willie, live in a war zone, then I have the same choice to make that Willie made. I can cry. Or I can laugh. If I try to make everything in my life make sense, I will go crazy. If I try to explain absolutely everything until my son understands what I have said, he and I will go down that crazy road together. If I try to understand everything he says and does, normal will not even be a word that could be applied to me (not that it is anyway!).

Sometimes, I just choose to laugh.

I learned to choose laughter when our son was still a preschooler. Although I tried to keep flat surfaces clear, I was rarely successful. Our kitchen table always seemed to have something on it besides the usual kitchen items. One day, my search for the stapler took me to the kitchen table, but despite all my best efforts, I could not get it to work. Of course, like everyone who has ever had a stapler malfunction, I picked it up, opened the hinge, and looked at the mechanism. Much to my surprise (or maybe my chagrin), there was dried green Jell-O® in the slot from which a staple should have emerged.

Since we had been learning from an autism specialist to be detectives in our son’s life and try to analyze all of his actions in order to understand him better, I immediately went into detective mode and tried to figure this one out. Now, what kind of questions does one pose to herself when trying to figure out dried, green Jell-O® in a stapler? The one that immediately came to mind was this: What was he trying to staple to Jell-O®?

Lest you think that this question was easily resolved, let me assure you that it was not. I was in the midst of not just days or weeks of sleep deprivation but literally years of not sleeping through the night. I am not sure how many brain cells I lost during that time, but I am quite sure that the ones that were left had absolutely no answer for the question I had posed to myself.

It was in that moment that I finally realized this critical philosophy: I can go crazy trying to figure this out, or I can just laugh at the absurdity of it.

I chose laughter, and since that day, our family has enjoyed so much less stress, because we have learned that fact is, indeed, stranger than anything anyone could make up. We do not need television sitcoms. Life itself is funny!

One of the greatest compliments our family has ever received came from the young woman who is our son’s attendant. She is in our home forty hours a week, so she sees a lot of life here. She told me recently, “I think your family laughs more than any other family I know. You find the humor in everything.”

I am not suggesting that you undermine your own authority with your child. I do not mean that you should allow open defiance. But if his explanation for WHY he did what he did makes a lot of sense when taken in HIS context, laugh!

Maybe we all need to take ourselves less seriously. And has it ever occurred to you that that may be the very reason God gave you this special child to begin with?