My husband grew up in the land of Silly. His family's motto: Avoid all debate, no point in argument, do what you're told. Otherwise, invent puns and other wordplay to pass the day, bring them to the dinner table, and let laughter ensue.
That paragraph is obviously not written by one of them.
As youngest, Husband was tutored by the best Punster Dad, encouraged by three older Sisters in all things witty, and was named Best Retorts or Cutest Quips or something like that in middle school. His writing would be highly entertaining.
I grew up in the land of Discussions and Debate. Our motto? Hash it out over the dinner table and be prepared to defend your argument. Specifics are expected, preferably a reasonable outline or schedule to be included, depending on the subject of the debate.
With about that much humor.
As youngest, my first arguments were usually unformed and poor on specifics, I would get flustered when a strong well-thought-out argument came my way. But my sister was brilliant at this game and she loved to teach at an early age, so I became her first student. I learned to be decisive, to prioritize quickly, and to be quick in my debating skills....this can also be called picking a fight I later learned.
When Husband and I met, I was entranced by his charm and his humor, while he found my quick problem-solving skills and penchant for brain-storming novel and impressive.
All was bliss.
Then we set up house and had children.
One detail that ought to be mentioned here: Oldest child and I were a welcomed duo when Husband and I got together and Middle child arrived before we actually set up house, so "set up house and had children" was part of Day One.
It was clear very quickly that we needed coping skills. It was not clear at all what those coping skills were going to be.
Oldest child was and is a Force of Nature. He ran as soon as he walked. He rarely sat down as a child, he doesn't sit down now. He paces. He acted without thought all throughout childhood, he was the poster child for ADHD, while we were the poster parents for non-medicating. Not even an aspirin in our house. For better or worse, we chose to raise a non-medicated, hyperactive child, and today we are thrilled with the adult he has become.
I also have mostly white hair and I'm not even fifty yet.
For fourteen years we lived on a high-tension wire of stress, not only because of Oldest Child and his energy, but also because of almost every other choice we made. We had embraced the "Live Simply so Others May Simply Live" lifestyle espoused by the ubiquitous bumper sticker all over the Pacific Northwest in the nineties, and we spent most of that materialistic decade in various simple abodes. A one room cabin in the woods. A three bedroom sort of cabin in the woods. A fancier hippie cabin (read: nicer woodworking detail, no amenities) with solar lighting, and an outhouse in the woods.
A bit small for this crowd.
Eventually there were three Sons, two dogs, and a fierce, unafraid cat that kept the neighbor dog away. There was not enough income, and too much shouting. My debating skills and incisiveness ruined any family harmony that existed, Husband was too overwhelmed to joke, and the unintended consequence of having smart children is that they were better at debate than I at a frighteningly early age.
By the time we'd moved away from our cabin-y life and headed back East to care for elderly parents, by the time we'd wreaked havoc on the traditional notions we found there for four years, after we'd tended and finally buried two parents, moved back out west one summer following three cozy fun-filled cross-country drives -- the last in a Penske moving truck towing a mini van -- my nerves had been so thoroughly thrashed that the joke about the rope going into the bar, being asked if it has ID, and it replies, "I'm a frayed knot..." was my closest self-identifying parallel.
In Oregon, Oldest's teenaged years hit the heights of glory and unbelievable situations, Middle child grew sullen and was ignored far too often, and Youngest child was.....youngest. Eccentric. The living embodiment of Oregon's state motto: "He flies by his own wings." Okay, Oregon's state motto is technically "She flies by her own wings." Either way is appropriate for most of our citizens.
Maybe medication could've been introduced with great benefit here, but it was not. We were exhausted, mentally and emotionally.
Then the day came. Middle child said yet another sassy remark and I just knew it was over, I was losing it.
In a stroke of Grace, instead of the screech I thought was about to fly out, I heard myself singing, with the worst operatic quality, "You're pissing me oooffffff!"
Silence. Staring. We both looked confused.
"You're pissing me off tooooo!" he sang back. And then for the next ten minutes, we both sang out our resentments, our anger, our pissed-off-ness back and forth, all in Opera Voice, before we both started laughing.
We were eventually transformed by this. Oldest child and I sang out our back-and-forth crap for months, ridiculous puns slowly made their way into our repertoire, youngest even tried making some up. Silliness was invited more often and it began to leave its healing mark. We were learning to cope in a completely new and alien way for me.
As the quote by the Dalai Lama says, "Honesty without compassion is cruelty," so I began to subscribe to my own "Intellect without humor is a drag."
So, when Middle Son stood at the door and began his comedic routine, I was ready.
"I'm going out now..." he called out while standing unnaturally erect, hands to his side.
"Where are you off to?" I reply.
"Why do you ask?" is his response. I look up to see Middle son's arms stretched diagonally over his head, big grin on his face.
I catch on.
"Every parent wants to know where their kid is off to," I say as my leg shoots out horizontally to parallel my two arms, sort of, imitating a capital 'E.'
I smile to myself as the game goes on for several minutes. So silly really, the kind of behavior that might not be welcomed at the intellect's table, the kind that seems downright inappropriate sometimes in this world of uncertainty and strife, but I don't care anymore. I've learned how to laugh, how to lighten up a little, not take myself so seriously.
Our sons search us out for company, Husband and I are still happily together after 21 years, and his smile still takes my breath away. I have many reasons to be light of heart.
While we still hash out discussions at the table, still engage our kids in the process of coping with the world, our coping skills have matured.
Now we're willing to be ridiculous at the drop of a hat.
JULY 23, 2010 1:56PM