Last April Fool’s Day, I spent the morning opening up the freezer so Mbot could stuff his bunny between the bag of peas and the sweet potato fries, and then closing the freezer while he giggled, and then opening it again and being SO SURPRISED THAT THERE WAS A BUNNY IN THE FREEZER!
I’m not sure where he got this idea.
We did this over and over until soon there was a bunny and a doggie and then Junepbear was heading toward me in the kitchen and I had to call it quits because the freezer is about the size of a cereal box, really, and also because wasting energy (any energy–the earth’s or my own) makes me irritable. Then Gbot, who was only eighteen months old, had “to do a foolish,” too, as Mbot called it. So Gbot stuffed his giraffe in a few times and I was SO SURPRISED TO FIND A GIRAFFE IN THE FREEZER and then we didn’t do any more foolishes until the next day and then after another day or two, the bots thankfully forgot about foolishness.
But it made me remember that my brother a few years ago, with daughters then three and six, told me how much time he spent fake laughing, and how I would, too. At the time, it was difficult to imagine.
Then about six months ago, I found myself sitting across the breakfast table from Mbot and actually responding naturally–carrying on a real conversation. It was so easy. My reactions were real, my laughter was real. It was such a relief. And I realized how much energy I spent each day BEING SO SURPRISED at things and LAUGHING SO HARD at other things. I am lucky because I actually enjoy this sort of interaction, but still, it was a relief to not have to spend quite so much energy at the breakfast table.
The transition to trying SO HARD and just doing what comes naturally is so slow and sneaky that it would be easy for it to go unnoted. But a few days ago, Gbot, displeased with something I’d done that morning, marched around the living room singing, to the tune of “What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor,” “What we shall do with the meanest mommy, what we shall do with the meanest mommy, what we shall do with the meanest mommy earl-AYE in the morrrrrrrningggg.”
And this morning, when I told Mbot that Grandma was going to lose a tooth (she’ll have it pulled after everything else has failed), he looked up brightly and said, “I wonder what she’ll wish for?”
Such songs and statements produce thousands of kilowatt hours of emotional energy, more than enough to power any fake laughter I need.
PS: If you haven’t watched the clip at the top, watch it now. The Irish Rovers sing “What Will We Do With a Drunken Sailor.” No fake laughing necessary.