Hum dee ho… “Could you hand me that wrench? That’ll fix it,” I say to anybody who’s listening. It’ being whatever struggle I’m currently having with my kid. The wrench’ being whatever tool I have tucked away under my parenting know-it-all fix-it-all’ belt.
I have tools for everything, it seems. My tools have come to me from parenting classes. Books. Seminars. My own experiences. They’ve all filled my fatherhood toolbox with everything I’ll need for every occasion, right? When a screw is loose, grab my parental screwdriver. When something needs to be pounded in, I grab my parental hammer. When I forget the combination to my kid’s brain… grab the hacksaw.
It seems like parenting should be as ridiculously simple as always grabbing the right tool for the right need, for us and for other people’s kids. Jim Bob over there is having problem with his kid doing x-and-such. Hey no problem, all he needs to do is… let’s see… here’s the answer. Right here in this book. Sally Sue is struggling because her kid is doing y-and-such. Simple as pie, all she needs to do is… let’s see… the answer is right here in my notes from that parenting course. And Chuck-Cho’s problem with his kid? Well, duh… my kid had the same problem and I used Dan’s magical kid-fixing-tonic to make that problem go away. Guaranteed it’ll work for Chuck-Cho as well.
Don’t ask me where I came up with the name Chuck-Cho. I like it though. I’ll probably use it again. I may even name my next kid Chuck-Cho.
<sigh>. I won’t lie. My toolbox gets pretty heavy sometimes. There are so many tools in it that sometimes I don’t even know what any of them are good for. And, even worse… sometimes none of them seem to work at all.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that my kid is going to adapt. He’s going to recognize whatever tool it is I’m pulling out of my daddy-toolbox and he’s going to make that tool worthless to me. I’ll show up with a Phillip’s screwdriver, he’ll suddenly have a slot-edge problem. I’ll show up with a socket wrench. He’ll bury those bolts and nuts so deep that what I have can’t reach them. And, usually that’s all okay because I have some other tool in my toolbox that fits the need.
But… every once in a while… that little stinkers does something, or hits me from behind, or presents a challenge so difficult, that nothing that I usually use works. I begin pulling every other tool out one at a time. He sits back and giggles inside (I know he is), humored by my inability to manipulate this tiny master of manipulation. Before long, the ground around me is strewn with tools I forgot I even had, none of which did the trick. My toolbox is almost empty. I look around at the clumps of hair I’ve pulled out trying to deal with whatever I’m dealing with. And then… I remember.
And I look in the bottom of the toolbox. And sure enough, it’s in there. It’s always in there.
I just look at Noah, and I start to… laugh. I laugh to myself. I laugh to him. I laugh to the world. I laugh because I don’t have all the answers. I laugh because I don’t have the energy to keep dealing with it. I laugh because I feel mentally depleted. I laugh because, well… nothing else makes sense.
The laughter tool.
No knowledge necessary to use it. No education needed. No reasoning. No logic. No nothing but a problem in need of a solution.
Every parent has this tool in their toolbox, and for some reason it’s often the last tool a lot of us pull out. I know it is for me. All the freaking time.
But here’s the irony of it all. When I finally do pull it out. It works. And it doesn’t just work. It works well, and it works just about every time.
To laugh about that which I can’t fix… To laugh about that which I can’t control… well, doing so has a purpose and the purpose is simple. Parents need to be reminded, and I as a parent need to be reminded, that the vast majority of the time, whatever problem we think we see and whatever problem we think we can’t handle… simply is.
It’s the tool that helps us let go of every other tool that isn’t working and simply be.
It’s the tool that reminds us that our kids aren’t computer programs and they aren’t robots. It reminds us that they aren’t one-size-fits-all, one-method-fits-all, and one-quick-fix-fits-all.
It’s the tool that makes our kids human again.
It’s the tool that makes them fragile and real again.
It’s the tool that reminds us of exactly who we are and who they are.
And, perhaps best of all, it’s the tool that gets our kids laughing, too. That’s important because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all of this, it’s that if my kid is laughing, he’s usually on my team.
Laughter is the multi-purpose tool that will fix almost every problem, almost every time. I just wish I’d remember to grab it first when problems come up because… dang… It gets tiring trying every other tool in the toolbox. And I get blisters. And blisters suck.
Dan Pearce, Danoah Unleashed
PS. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you find that laughter is the greatest multi-purpose tool? What do you do to get to that tool more quickly, and what does it usually take to get you reaching for that tool in the first place?
Also, be sure to join me over at my main blog Single Dad Laughing for daily posts, musings, rants, and attempts at entertainment. We have a lot of fun over there.