One of my first lessons of parenting came about 16 years ago from my sister. Her son, Sam, was a few months old and sleeping upstairs. Ann was a nervous new mom. At some point she asked if I could just go check on him. I didn’t really see the point. He was sleeping. What’s there to see? But I went. And then I came back and, as I sat back down, I casually said, “He’s dead.”
What I learned was that parents don’t like jokes about their kids being dead. Even parents with good senses of humor don’t like these jokes. I probably made the same joke with Ann and one of her kids being dead six to ten times over the years (she kept having kids), believing in my heart that this time…this time… I’d get a laugh. I never did.
When George was born –six years ago last Saturday– I told myself I was not going to lose my sense of humor. I was going to laugh when someone made a joke about my kid being dead. Force it if I had to. But being the emotionally stunted, fourth child in a family of four, I had a feeling I’d never completely grow up or out of my love of inappropriate jokes.
What I didn’t prepare myself for was the possibility that my kids would have no sense of humor. If there was a humor test for little kids, akin to the IQ placement test for kindergarten, it would likely begin with the fart noise. And George would fail. His farts, other people’s farts, fart noises, whoopee cushions…he just doesn’t get it. Early on, through the toddler years, I’d tell myself “he’s young, he’s got time. So he won’t be a comedian. That’s a good thing. Comedians are miserable people.”
Then George turned five and it got weird. Here was this kid, prime of his immaturity, just walking along farting like an old man, completely ignoring it.
“Ahh, Georgie!” I’d shout gleefully.
He’d just ignore me or, worse, say “What?”
My hope would fade but I’d hold on…”Nice one. Nice fart. It was…good. Funny. Right?”
“Wasn’t me.” He’d say and just walk away.
I’d call after him, “He who denied it supplied it!”
George continued to ignore the humor of a loud fart. And I grew more anxious. Will he never get it, I wondered. What will grade school be like for a boy who doesn’t laugh at farts? Would I have to try to explain to him why a fart is funny the way I tried to explain to my sister why the dead baby joke was funny? And come up just as empty?
Then Theo got a little sick. He developed a cough. And just about every time he coughed he farted. Georgie laughed. He laughed hard. Three days before his sixth birthday. It was the best present he could’ve given me. Happy Birthday, Georgie. I’m proud of you.
From George’s birthday…
G’s 6th birthday cake (click link for video)