Right about the time when my oldest daughter turned thirteen, I discovered something about myself: My sense of humor had gone missing.
It didn’t happen overnight. Looking back, it wasn’t that I felt depressed; I didn’t. It had more to do with life taking a serious turn. My husband was a corporate guy who worked long, long hours. Our four children, aged 4-13, kept me very busy. All within a few months, we experienced the unexpected death of my father-in-law and a rare lifethreatening illness in my mother. To top it off, we were suddenly faced with an overseas move in which my husband would be traveling more than fifty percent of the time.
Life felt serious because life was serious.
And then I met Kim. On the very first morning of school in Hong Kong, Kim and I stood next to each other as we put our children on the bus. She came from Texas, I came from California; she had an only child, I had multiple children. She introduced herself and explained to me that she was pretty sure her daughter had HP stamped all over her school records (short for “hysterical parent”). I knew this was my kind of gal.
But I never would have dreamed that Kim would give me a lasting gift: remembering to laugh. She and her husband, Clayton, are an unusual combo. Both are flaming extroverts, warm and friendly. And talk about a sense of humor! They can find the funny side of anything. Anything.
The more time I spent with Kim, the more I found myself lightening up, finding amusement in adjusting to a foreign country with four children, coping more successfully with the challenges. It was as if I’d thrown off a heavy backpack I was never meant to carry in the first place: perfectionism. I felt a freedom to let go of being a perfect mother (which I never was!) and just be the best mother I could be.
The most effective kind of humor was when I made fun of myself. That alone was transformative in the relationship with my thirteen-year-old daughter. We started to enjoy each other—and still do! But I remember a candid comment she made that, well, summed it up. “Mom,” she said in an amazed voice, “I didn’t realize you had a personality.”
I read somewhere that children, on average, laugh two hundred times a day. Adults laugh only fifteen to eighteen times a day. Having a child in your life, or a friend like Kim (and I bet you have a friend or two who helps you lighten up), can certainly help you make up the shortfall.
So today, try to laugh more. Make fun of yourself. Hunt for the absurd. After all,cultivating a sense of humor is seriously important.
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Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling author of fiction and non-fiction about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books, including The Letters, book 1 in the 'Inn at Eagle Hill' series and the ‘Adventures of Lily Lapp’ series. Lily has her own interactive website for children, with games, coloring pages, and an “Ask Lily” feature. Suzanne has a free downloadable app, Amish Wisdom, for iPhone or Android, that delivers a daily Amish proverb. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area.
You can find Suzanne on-line at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.