If You Aren’t Laughing, You Should Be

When Dee was young I had a great deal of laughs…often times at what would seem to be her expense. She would say or do something that would set me off and I would chortle away.

I didn’t laugh in a mean way, but she was sensitive, oh so very sensitive!

She would frown, “Stop laughing at me.”

I would stop laughing long enough to say, “I’m not laughing AT you, I’m laughing WITH you.”

“But I’m not laughing.”

“You should be.”

“You should be” was the short answer. My long answer would have been to explain to my daughter that, even in the face of ‘serious’ issues, her life would soon hold so much more than she could possibly dream of or imagine right now. That this drama that held her in its grasp so seriously, so deeply, would fade quicker than a daylily’s bloom.

I wanted to see her view expand and encompass all that she would be, could be, and should be in life. That the words of some small-minded bully or cattiness of the popular girls would fade and become irrelevant all too soon. That she would thrive and come into her own – and create her own description of what beauty and intelligence and success was.

I dreamed of her laughing at the small things, the silly things, and putting it all in perspective. Recognizing that we are more than just that one friendship or a difficult teacher or even that less than perfect report card.

I prayed for her to find the grace to laugh at her imperfections and realize how very special she was in all things – most especially in my heart.

But all I said was, “If you aren’t laughing, you should be.”

I will confess that I didn’t think about it too deeply. I didn’t ever try to explain to her what I meant. And, until she reads this, I’m doubt she has ever truly understood all of the love and hope and belief in her that lay behind those simple words.

My daughter is now 21. An independent, beautiful, talented and intelligent young woman. And two years ago, as I struggled through a particularly frustrating financial experience, I would hear those words come back to me.

As I related my tale of woe, Dee began to laugh. No matter what I said, she seemed to find it funny! I grew angry, resentful and I felt misunderstood. I told her she just didn’t understand what I was going through and that she wasn’t taking me seriously. I ended the phone call, went grumpily to bed, and awoke the next morning still in a bad mood.

And there on my computer was an email from Dee. As I read her words my dark mood vanished…

I was just thinking about things, and I realized I have to let you in on an aspect of the “new me.”

Remember when I was a little kid and you used to laugh at something I said or did, and I’d get all mad and say, “Stop laughing at me.”

You’d say, “I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you.”

“I’m not laughing!”

“You should be.”

I’ve realized that by laughing  a lot, I get into the habit of doing it in situations that are not normally called for to laugh. I laugh when I’m angry, stressed, pleased, thinking of something quite serious, or for no reason at all.

I’m not laughing at you, mom, I’m laughing with you. And if you’re not laughing, you should be.

I realized then that she had been listening and that she had understood what I was trying to convey. It was at that moment that I felt one of the biggest successes I have ever felt as a parent.

My daughter knew I would get past this dark, angry tunnel. And she was there, standing in the sunlight, laughing, and waiting for me to join her.


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