It’s cute; a fuzzy little brown critter that hops across the floor pecking its long yellow beak. It’s also apparently the most hilarious thing Baby Emme has ever seen, and, consequently, the most hilarious thing the rest of us have seen. At least in a while.
There is just something resoundingly refreshing found in the deep, boundless chuckle of a baby. It’s infectious. And when it feels like there hasn’t been a whole lot of humor in your life, a laughing baby is like a healing salve applied directly to the heart.
Earlier this winter, we stood in the path of a freight train. It barreled at us, in the form of a life-threatening virus that sent our oldest daughter to the ICU, threatening to derail our lives as it brought with it a vision of an existence irrevocably altered. Thankfully that train blew by us, ruffling our nerves and stinging our eyes but leaving us mostly, outwardly unharmed. Since averting that disaster we’ve been breathing colossal sighs of relief, but haven’t exactly been feeling relaxed enough to do a whole lot of laughing.
Researchers have studied the effects of laughter on the human body, postulating a wide array of benefits from laughter including increased oxygen in the blood stream, enhanced respiration, increased heart rate, and improved blood pressure. They have also found a compelling relationship between laughter and the production and release of endorphins, the body’s own pain-reducing and stress-relieving substance.
In other words, it’s not just good to laugh, but actually therapeutic.
“Mom, do you want to hear this story?” Elle tugged on the hem of my shirt, imploring me with a sly little smile as I stood in the kitchen preparing dinner.
“Bad boys get cookies!” She shouted, giggling madly as she ran back out of the kitchen.
There is a difference between what makes kids laugh, and what we adults find humorous.
For us, what’s funny is usually abstract – a play upon words, a pun, subtle sarcasm. Adult humor is complicated, nuanced. What children laugh at is, however, much more simple and unsophisticated. Children’s humor is spontaneous. It’s a silly sentence. It’s a little brown wind-up bird hopping and pecking across the dinner table.
It’s easy to smile at a child’s silliness. You expect to get a little chuckle out of a baby’s uncomplicated delight in a funny little toy. But to truly laugh with a child, deeply and without bounds, is extraordinary. It’s restorative, purely and simply.
And, so, I plan on winding up that little kiwi bird every chance I get. Laughing, with my kids, because they know a lot more about humor than I.