The power of laughter

I remember the first time I found the power of laughter. I'm going to poke a little fun at my Mom, but I don't think she'll mind. This is something I said to her recently and she laughed when I told her.

Around our house, we've had a hard time with consequences. We weren't really prepared to be parents and we took in the kid with a quick decision. I remember when I called my sister to tell her about Sydney and her first question was "Do you know what you're getting into?" And we did not. We weren't ready to discipline a child in the modern world. Everything that we had learned about parenting was either not recommended for kid's with behavioral problems or it was forbidden to us as guardians (but would be okay if we were parents...what's up with that??? it should be one set of rules for everybody!)

I can look back over the last three years and smile now, but there were times when it just was not funny. But, I always knew one thing for sure. We could never give in or we would never get the compliance we needed in order to be able to build trust with a child who did not trust adults. A child with abandonment issues, who had learned to manipulate the adults around her to work them into a frenzy where they did something they would regret and go to the other extreme trying to make up for it. Oh, boy. Did she know that lesson well.

But that's not the point of my story. When I was a kid, I got in trouble. A lot. I know it's hard to believe, but it's true, so if you're having trouble with a son, remember that he will probably grow out of it...eventually. But I learned that if I could make my Mom laugh, I could get out of just about anything. If I could make her laugh, I could get out of a spanking, or grounding, or doing the dishes. And, I took full advantage of that.

Unfortunately, the fact that I could make her laugh and get myself out of trouble was why I got into so much trouble. I didn't believe in the consequences because I could affect them. With laughter.

Okay, so picture my Mom, sitting in a chair, holding my shoulder in a death grip while she tried to decide what to do with me, giving me a periodic shake to make sure she had my attention. And, I flashed her my most winning smile and kept it up, no matter how hard she tried to be severe until I wore her anger down and eventually made her smile too. I can remember her trying so hard to cover those smiles and keep her stern demeanor on, but eventually it would crack. She would look away and try to compose herself or cover he mouth with her hand. It was like watching the Carol Burnett Show when Tim Conway would do something hilarious and crack the rest of the cast up. I remember it like it was yesterday.

And, I made her miserable after I figured out how to do that. I was out of control. Well, out of control for a 10 year old in the early 70's, which is nothing compared to what we would consider out of control today.

It worked for years. And, I can remember just as clearly when I got to be a teen and it didn't work anymore. But, by then, my Mom had graduated to "I'm going to tell your father when he gets home". Now, my Dad is the most easygoing man in the world and rarely gets angry. (But, when you made him angry, he used to get really angry.) I don't remember ever having my Dad sit me down and discipline me for anything my Mom told him when he got home. I don't know whether she told him and he decided a day of suffering, waiting for him to get home was enough, or whether she decided not to tell him and he never knew about the torment I was putting her through. (again, I use the word torment loosely. I was a really good kid, just not always the kid my parents wanted me to be. compared to some of the stunts my own kid has pulled, I was an angel.)

Still, I grew up okay. Never any severe run-ins with the law. Didn't surrender my life to drugs like so many other kids my age did when they grew up. I had a good sound basis for how to get through life without much trouble. But, remembering how I could get my Mom to soften and knowing that meant I could get away with just about anything turned my resolve to steel. I never give in. If I say do something, you better get it done. If I set an expectation, you better meet it. If you tell me something, it better be the truth and you better mean it. All my parenting has been tinted with the memory that if I gave in, I'd never be able to trust Sydney again. And, whether she realizes it or not, Sydney is going to want me to trust her more and more as she gets older.

And, it has worked. Good grades. And, more importantly, the trouble she gets into is just stupid stuff and usually driven by hormones or failure to realize that she's a big girl and can hurt somebody without even trying. It's good that she learns that early.

So, I know that if I can get you to laugh, I can get away with most anything. But, I'm never going to share that secret with my kid. And, you better not either.

Especially you, Mom.

Take care and have a great Way Back Wednesday. I hope this little tale about the power of laughter reminds you of a time that laughter helped you get out of trouble. And, I hope it doesn't remind you of a time it got you into trouble. Lane


Becky said...

I love your way back Wednesdays!!! They make me smile.

CC said...

As always, thank you for sharing your memories and stories with us. You're such a good writer,that you draw us in and let us become a part of your world...we are right there with you. I think it's a rare talent you have...I always enjoy my visits here, and again..thank you for sharing..

lw said...

I wish I'd known you as a kid, you sound like you'd have been a lot of fun.

I remember my mom saying to my sister (who acted out quite a bit as a kid,) "I hope you have a child someday who's just like you!" in a very exasperated voice. I bet your Mom is really enjoying watching you parent your daughter these days.

Coloradolady said...

Lane, I was just about to ask if Sydney read your blog, if so...you were in so much trouble!!! What a great story, and really smart on your part....love these post on Wed. they are always so good.