I have noticed that sometimes as an adult I tend to take myself way to serious. There is definitely a lesson to be learned from my childhood at which time almost anything seemed funny and I was never afraid to show it. The dumbest things would make me crack up in laughter lightening the mood or some of the most boring and inconsequential moments of my life. There are moments in my adults life in which I could truly benefit from those crazy uncontrollable giggles that would almost make me pee in my pants once a upon a time. Obviously the older I get, the harder it seems to find a good joke that I have not heard in the past that can bring out a moment of pure unadulterated joy. This is definitely not so when it comes to my kids. To them, the simple act of passing gas or burping in public is grounds for at least three minutes of laughing while blaming the world for such a gross and vulgar act. I sometimes just find myself hovering around the space in which they are entertaining themselves just to catch a bit of their light hearted conversations on the sidelines. Listening to them talk about a dumb TV show, a silly moment of their day, or just one of their crazy or twisted ideas can change the mood of my entire day.
Obviously not everything in my relationship with my children is a laughing matter. In fact, there are sometimes weeks in a row in which I find it hard to crack a smile at my oldest son because of some new compulsion or bad habit that frustrates me to no end. If I am not careful to catch myself going down that path of seriousness, soon I have gone so far past the point of any joy that I can easily find myself in a depressive emotional state. To be frank about it, there is nothing I hate more than being depressed. My mood becomes dark and find myself being a lot more tired than usual. It is like I am just waiting for the clock to mark bedtime so that I have an excuse to go and sleep the moment away. This of course is not a healthy way to live and by now I know that I am much better off lifting myself from the ground and finding whatever I need to do to make myself happy again. Sometimes it might take me a day or two, but sooner or later I surround myself with positive influences and I am back to my cheerful self. Once I find laughter again in my life, sure enough, life is good and I can feel myself healing from whatever had me down.
Early on as a father I learned a technique that has served me well throughout time when dealing with a moody child. What I learned to do was to break whatever pattern was ongoing during a tantrum, an anger fit, or an argument or negative mood of my son. Instead of arguing back and trying to “control” his behavior with parental demands or threats, I learned to hold my tongue and wait for the right moment, and like a clever comedian interject a funny moment into the exchange. The trick is that it has to be truly funny, not sarcastic, not demeaning, and more than anything not related to the tantrum or argument in itself. The good news is that my children will laugh at almost anything making it pretty easy for me to be effective. The not so good news is that my children grew up to be teenagers making it a lot harder now for me to be amusing just because of their inherit hormonal mood swings. However, since I got pretty good at it while they were young, my chances of being effective now that they are older are pretty good.
Interrupting the pattern, breaking the flow, distracting the altered mind to focus on something else, these are all different ways I use to cancel out a tense moment between me and my kids. Out of all of the techniques that I have learned, making them laugh seems to be the most effective. I think that my success with laughter is strongly related to its healing power. When they start laughing it is like ninety percent of what was upsetting them cancels out immediately, allowing me to deal with only the remaining ten percent. It is so much easier to deal with the root of the problem than having to navigate through all of the drama surrounding it in the first place. I confess that it is not easy to learn not to feed into their anger, since dealing with a moody teenager is truly challenging and frustrating to say the least. However, even if I apply this technique half of the times that they are testing my will, I guarantee you that I do not regret giving it a shot.
Experts reveal so many positive things about our brain chemistry that relates to laughter. What they don’t tell you though is that healing is not only a physiological process. When I find myself laughing in the middle of a sad, stressful, or frustrating moment in my life, my emotional state has an excuse to relax and allow itself to recharge. The more laughter, the longer the period of emotional relaxation and recharge time. To me, this is not only enjoyable, it is truly healing. I try to at least once a week meet with two good friends for lunch. Sometimes these buddies of mine are too busy or on business travel so we end up skipping a week, but as soon as we are all in town we head for our lunch time together. We call it our medicine time. Just those sixty minutes of sharing and laughing together is enough to boost us out of any aggravating mood we might of been in to start with. Again, what we are really doing is breaking the pattern, interrupting whatever mood we’ve been in that is causing stress in our life and cancelling out ninety percent of the drama surrounding it all. In the car on the way to our favorite Mexican restaurant whomever is most stressed out vents their frustration and gets a dose of sympathy from the other two. As soon as we arrive at the restaurant we are welcomed by two amazingly warm managers with a great big hug and the comforting words from their lips announcing that “the three amigos are here!” Unless we were dead, how could we stop smiling! Typically no menus ever even reach our hands. The bartender lifts his hand and shows the number three indicating how many Sonora Iced Teas he is about to prepare. Sometimes one of us can’t have a drink that day so this person lifts his hand to indicate the deficit count of only two instead. A polite server brings chips, pico de gallo, and salsa to our usual table in the bar area. The attentive and beautiful manager delights us with a delicious appetizer which just as the three drinks never manages to show up on our bill. Nothing at that moment can stop us from smiling and laughing which is something that the manager has called to our attention in the past. She once told us that she loved having us there because our smiling and laughing changes the mood in the room we are in. Personally I confess that I truly look forward more to her hugs, smiles, and wonderful demeanor, than to the free drinks and appetizer. She always makes it back to our table to share a little bit of her busy time with us, making us laugh and making us feel more special than anyone else around. In these sixty minutes we heal. We might call the drinks our medicine, but the truth is that the whole experience is truly our medicine.
The same way that I am able to bond with my two buddies, I should be able to bond with my children. At least once a week I need to break the pattern and create the right environment to allow us to heal together. This is not easy when it is all said and done because my teenagers are definitely out to find their own selfish gratification and have very little interest in me. So the key to a successful healing moment lies on my ability to convince them to hang out with their old man for a few hours every so often. No matter how upset I might be with whatever is going on in our relationship, this special time is not the right moment to talk about it. In fact, healing time is when we sit back, make jokes, and laugh as hard as we possibly can about anything that tickles our heart.