I love making my son laugh.
I remember the first time I got him to really laugh, like from the depths of your bowels, a hearty Ghost of Christmas Present from A Muppet Christmas Carol type laugh. He was close to three months old and we were playing on the floor. We had to play on the floor because he didn't really do much moving other than that. Work with what you got, you know?
He was on his back looking up at me as I was in front of him at his feet on my knees staring down at him. In typical Lisi fashion I decided to start dancing, doing a little shimmy with my shoulders. He laughed a little. Getting a child who's just learning to laugh to laugh just a little – it's a drug. It's addicting and just like a drug, you want it more frequently with greater intensity. You will do anything to make them laugh more and I wish there was some way to capture it forever. Perhaps heaven is like a child's laughter. I can imagine.
I decided to try something that just instinctually comes to many parents, and honestly most adults, who try to get this drug of laughter.
As I shimmied, I then dropped my face really quickly toward his, stopping hard just before I touched his nose with mine. My hands hit the floor hard at each side of him, my eyes just a few inches away. It happens in a matter of milliseconds. For some reason we all think that this swift, fast motion will make kids laugh.
And it did! He started laughing so hard. Success!
I did it over and over and over again until, as we all know, he got bored and then annoyed.
But it was the start of making him laugh and I love doing it to this day in the same way. Now he knows the game, running away and hiding as I look for him. I move slowly, pretending not to know where he is. Then, as I find him, I stop, look at him for a brief second, and then attack like a lion seeking laughter as his prey. He loves it. The Wifey says that I'm able to get him to laugh in a way that is so distinct to our relationship.
I've thought a lot about this ever since that day I first got him to laugh. Even though he's big for his age, he is still so small compared to me. He's a handful of pounds and inches and I'm a grown, hairy man.
And yet his first response with me when I move quickly and suddenly toward him has been laughter. From three months to 19 months and I trust the rest of his life, this will be his response.
To me this is an example of awe and wonder, that he laughs. And why? One could easily assume that his response would, not one of laughter, but one of tears out of being scared. So why laughter? Because he feels safe with me. He trusts me. He knows that my physical presence and my sudden movement is intended to bring out joy in him, not fear. What a gift this is, that our children default to trust, safety, and security with their parents!
I've thought about this a lot. How many children, when their fathers make the same physical motions, suddenly moving toward them, are frightened because they know it's not laughter their father's want, but pain? How many of children have lost the instinctual joy in being drawn to their fathers, only to have it replaced by a fear that keeps them from wanting to even be in the same room with him?
Fathers/Dads/Papas – have you ever thought about this? Do you ever consider the privilege you have in getting the opportunity to make your children laugh, to keep them in a place of feeling safe and secure with you?