Parenting is a hard gig.  And some days, it’s just not funny how tough it is. 

Some days, I feel like I’ve run a marathon by nine in the morning, and the party has just begun--I still have twelve hours (at least!) to go before I can call it a day.

Some days, my throat hurts from all of the prompting, coaching, cheerleading I do to get my kids from bed to breakfast table and out the door to school. Some days, if I stop to listen to what comes out of my mouth when I’m prompting, coaching, and cheerleading, I bristle with disgust. I don’t always like what comes out of my mouth, and I wish I could be a little lighter—a little softer, a little more funny and giggly.  I wish I laughed more and ‘prompted’ less.

So a few months back, I decided I wasn’t going to wait for New Year’s to make a resolution; I was going to start a positive change immediately. I was going to throw in a little more laughter a little more often than not, and I was going to see how that affected my family and me.  Would I really feel better? Would we all start to feel better? Would everything magically fall into place just because we laughed more?

I’ve forever heard that ‘laughter is the best medicine’ and that happy people tend to live longer, have lower stress, and are just—happier. So I tried it. I made a concerted effort to laugh each day. And it worked. Mostly.

I’ll admit: some laughs I’ve created. I’ve set up situations to deliberately grab a laugh or two.  Some have worked, and some have flopped.

One thing that always makes us laugh is googly eyes. So every now and then I pull out the bag of googly eyes, and I’ll glue a pair on a door handle, a placemat, a plastic cereal bowl. And then I’ll just wait, see who notices it, and usually the discovery is met with a shriek or a laugh.  It’s a little bit silly—and a tad bit unnerving—to see a set of eyes looking back at you from an inanimate object, but I’ll go with whatever gets the giggles.

I’ve added jokes to my children’s lunchbox notes, and they’ve been a huge hit.  I’m not sure if they get the kids laughing or rolling their eyes, but I don’t care. I’m trying. 

Some days, I’ll put on a pair of mismatched socks and see who notices first. Usually someone will laugh. But whenever I’m desperate, I can pull out a fluffy dog puppet and talk in a silly voice to our pooch.  My kids get nutty when they see our real dog face-to-face with a puppet dog, and they fall into stitches if our dog barks at (or bites) the puppet. It may not be the best training method for our furry friend, but some days, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Other days, the laughs are more natural, more organic, and totally unintentional, like when I inadvertently pour orange juice into a cereal bowl or when I help my son into my daughter’s coat or vice versa.  And as long as I breathe and laugh myself, instead of getting frustrated with my missteps, I’m fine. Some days, I really do have to remind myself to laugh and breathe deeply so I can see the humor in the situation instead of making it a stressor.  And obviously, some days that’s easier than others.

I’ve got a slap-stick sense of humor, which, conveniently, most young children share, so if I accidentally drop something on my head or on my foot or if someone knocks into me, after a quick “Are you okay!?” we usually bust into a good laugh. And I’ve found that as we’ve started to laugh more, the laughs come more quickly, more naturally than they did before my little ‘laugh experiment’. 

It’s easier to laugh at myself or at the absurdity of a situation when my heart and mind aren’t as heavy with stress or anxiety, and it feels good to give my smile some exercise each day.  But what feels even better is hearing my kids fall into a big, old-fashioned, can’t-stop-no-matter-how-hard-you-try, belly laugh—even if it begins with tickled toes or googly eyes glued to a toothbrush.