When I worked at my former company, I took a CAD course to improve my skills. Each day, I sat next to a coworker who had a sour disposition. He was always critical of everything and never smiled. One day I asked him why he was so angry all the time.
He looked at me with a scowl and said, “What is there to be happy about?”
I knew he had recently had a baby and I mentioned that to him.
“Listen,” he said as if he were breaking some bad news to me. “The world is in bad shape and I don’t have time to smile. I’m going to make sure my son understands that from an early age.”
Although I could understand his perspective, I couldn’t relate to it. I know that world isn’t perfect, but I’ve chosen to find the joy in everyday moments.
My life as a child was tough. I experienced domestic violence, poverty, and crime. Through it all, my mother kept a positive attitude and encouraged me to do the same. She taught me how to have fun and be joyful despite our circumstances.
My mother is a bit of a jokester and she helped me to develop a sense of humor by playing practical jokes on me. They were never mean-spirited, but they kept us laughing in the midst of the unpleasant things that were happening in our lives. I won’t get into the scientific research about endorphins affecting your mood. Suffice it to say, laughing together helped ease our emotional pain.
Because of my mother’s example, I try to teach my children the importance of laughter. I like to play practical jokes on them, tickle them until the squeal, and make funny faces while we’re riding in the car. As a result, my 12-year old daughter has developed a wry sense of humor. My 10-year old is a stand-up comedian who’s always trying out new material on us. My 6-year old son is a little prankster whose practical jokes are better than mine. My house is like a variety show.
But we don’t have to tell jokes to have a good time with each other. We seek to find the joy in simple things such as having dinner together, doing homework, walking through the park, or watching a movie. Simply being in the presence of my kids makes me smile.
When the kids are feeling down, I remind them of all the reasons they have to be happy. I don’t do this to discount their feelings. I do it to show them that life is beautiful and they don’t have to dwell on their sorrow.
I hope that being a dad has changed my former coworker’s mindset. A child’s laughter has a tendency to do that.