Tuesday, July 29, 2008

LOL: Laughing Out Loud or Learning from Our Little ones?

Here’s a question I guarantee you won’t have an answer for.
When’s the last time you stuck a popsicle stick into a banana and pretended it was a phone while walking down a main street and laughed so hard that you caught the attention of many passers-by and thereby publically humiliated yourself?
For me, eleven years.
It was 1997. My college roommate and must have consumed dozens of cups of cafeteria coffee over an extended lunch, and the over-caffeinated result was…wait for it…the Cellana. The cellular banana: an awesome idea spawned from the fact that every time my mother packed me a banana in my school lunch, she drew little number buttons on it with a blue pen so that I could make phone calls on my elementary lunch hour.
Regardless of what the Cellana means to anyone else, the image of a banana with an antenna is a sad reminder to me that I just don’t laugh that hard anymore. I’m talking full-out, doubling-over, eyes tearing up, “stop it stop it stop it” kind of laughing.
It’s the kind of laughing I see coming out of my kids all the time, especially when whatever they are laughing at isn’t all that funny to me.
For my older kids, 4 ½ and almost 7, their laughter seems to build off of each other. If one finds something funny, the other will start laughing and like the snowball effect, it doesn’t take long until they are on the floor rolling around giggling. Speaking of rolling, they also find it quite comical to roll down the hill in our front yard, seeing if anyone hits the sidewalk. And other times their laughter all stems from a killer knock-knock joke such as the one I actually heard today, “Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” “Pete.” “Pete who?” “Pete-y seed-y eat-ys his eyeballs!”
Cue laugh track.
My baby, on the other hand, is very particular about what she finds funny. At seven months, tickles don’t work. Toys don’t work. Peek-a-boo only works for a very short period of time. But if I pretend to take a big bite out of her chubby baby leg? Hilarious. In fact, it’s so funny that I have to watch where I’m biting because sometimes she laughs so hard we get giggles out one end and something else out the other.
So surrounded by all of this laughter, it makes me wonder why we adults don’t laugh a little more. Some studies show it’s healthy for us, improving blood flow, energy levels, and immune systems, while also reducing stress. Not only that, but one study done at Vanderbilt University showed that 10 minutes of laughter burned 50 calories! All of those benefits and smiling at the same time. Sounds better than health food and the gym to me.
What else about adulthood is keeping us from laughing? Is it the daily stresses or the tiredness that could be alleviated by a few good jokes? Or maybe is it just that our standards of what is really funny have dulled down to the point of being, well, dull?
Maybe we all need to take a few lessons from our kids the next time we see them snorting their drinks out their noses over a good knock-knock joke, or rolling down the hill and crashing into the sidewalk. Or maybe the next time I take a bite out of my baby’s leg and she laughs out loud, maybe I should just laugh back. Not only will these things boost my health, but they’ll also boost my relationship with my children.
It’s a win-win situation, one so spectacular that it is worth more than a million brand-spanking new Cellanas.

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