This morning was a little different than normal. I was taking the boys to school. My wife was leaving early to drop our daughter at daycare. She had to dress professionally in preparation for her clinical training day. The boys had slept in a little longer than normal and we parents had taken advantage by sleeping in ourselves. Things were going OK but we were late and nerves were running hot.
The boys were eating their biscuits and jelly, while my wife was holding our daughter and trying to prepare her breakfast at the same time. She needed to rinse a bowl in the sink when it happened. She flipped on the faucet, the sprayer nozzle stuck and water went flying across the kitchen soaking her, our daughter, and the floor. The surprise of the cold water caused my wife to let out a loud high pitched scream, which scared the 9 month old daughter causing her to cry.
The boys and I sat eating breakfast not knowing quite how to respond. The 3- year old covered his mouth trying to keep his breakfast from spewing out as he stifled a giggle. The 5-year old let out one lone giggle and then shut up quickly sensing that mom might not appreciate his response. I stood there dumbfounded remembering the night before when I had the same problem but was too lazy to find a solution. The 7-year old forced out the obligatory, “don’t laugh, it’s not funny!” reprimand of his younger brothers.
Now, this situation could have gone a number of different ways, but thanks to a patient and playful response things took a positive turn.
My wife paused a moment, seemingly to gather her super human strength, took a breath and said playfully, “well, it was kinda funny!”
The boys burst into laughter! They let loose with belly laughs and howls that are normally reserved for only the most hilarious moments. The previously tense feeling of the morning had been shattered, nerves had been instantly cooled and we shared a family laugh in a stressful time.
As I reflected on this moment I was struck by the importance of giving children permission to laugh. They desperately wanted to laugh, but they needed to know it was safe. My wife could have responded with anger, and continued the morning with increased tension and pressure. In her patience and playfulness however she sent the signal that she could laugh at herself and they could follow suit.
We have laughed about this moment several more times in the days to follow. We remember back with our boys about the time mom got sprayed by the sink. We share mini moments of laughter in the midst of the daily grind.
What a blessing we were given, a moment to laugh on a busy hectic morning and a lifetime to remember that wonderful feeling of connecting in joy through the power of laughter.