June, 3, is going through big changes. No longer is she my pliable 2-year-old. She’s about to begin her second year of Montessori. She admonishes me when I’m “wasting water” or “taking too long in the bathroom.” She tells me when my outfits are “cute.” (Then again, she says the same thing about dowdy dresses on mannequins at box stores.) But the one change that delights – or concerns – me above all others is the fake laugh.
Just yesterday she had the cutest little unselfconscious toddler giggle. Not any more; her laughter is all hammy and over the top and rehearsed, like she’s testing her vocal chords or trying to give her tonal range a workout, seeing which gurgling chuckle suits her best. It’s always a source of amusement for Jake and I at the dinner table when she busts out a laugh that sounds like it could come from Andrew Dice Clay (forgive my hopelessly dated pop cultural reference but that’s how she sounds).
I get where the impulse comes from. I myself used to stand before the mirror for hours on end as a preteen practicing and perfecting what I considered a most winning smile – think Pat Sajak crossed with the face you make when asking your spouse if that’s a hunk of spinach in your teeth. The expression was undeniably awful and plastic but at the time it seemed so pretty and 100 percent unrehearsed. I was playing with my identity because I didn’t know who I was. Apparently, I thought I had to be a cheesy game show host.
And now my 3-year-old is playing with her identity and that identity is Andrew Dice Clay.
Thankfully, she hasn’t limited her laugh stylings to just one. Every day, it seems, she busts out a fresh manufactured chuckle. Sometimes it’s delicate, demure and princess-y, like how I imagine Taylor Swift probably sounds when presented with a fuzzy, limited release Care Bear by her latest celebrity crush. Other times it’s boisterous and assertive, like when she asks Daddy to pull her finger and actually delivers the punchline on cue. (I place the blame squarely on Jake for this one; I had nothing to do with this particular lesson!) And then there’s what I call “the Hee-Haw,” a quick breathy laugh that sounds like a broken down donkey trying to ascend a steep hill. I think she reserves this one for when she’s trying to be all “down home.”
Every day it’s something new and every day I have to smile. I can only hope one of these days she’ll settle on the laugh styling she likes best and stick with it. With any luck, it will be the only that most closely resembles her natural 3-year-old giggle. I won’t hold my breath. Besides, by that point, she’ll probably move on to trying to perfect her smile.