There’s a good chance I think I’m funnier than I really am, and if that’s true, at least I am my biggest supporter. I guess my wife is a fan too, but in all transparency, there are times she looks at me disapprovingly and says, “You know, you’re not as funny as you think sometimes.” Ah well, at least I’m coping with laughter. I’m telling you the honest truth. I can make myself laugh despite the most awkward, random, and uncomfortable situations. See, as a parent, if there’s one simple key to happiness I’ve discovered in this often maniacal existence we parents all share, it’s laughter. If you’ve read the “About Chris” page on this blog, you know there was a time in my life when I over-obsessed with the idea of perfection, and over the years, I simply have learned to just relax. Oh, a kid somehow smeared his poop infested behind up against the wall because he fell over learning how to wipe? Well, it happens, and let’s get serious for a moment, that is really funny. And, if I’m being honest, it’s a darn good story to share in a future wedding speech someday. Sure, I’ll spend the next twenty minutes trying to scrub it out, but at least I’ll be laughing the whole way through it. I bring up laughter because really, it’s hard to laugh it off sometimes as a parent. I’m not saying I am completely carefree and easy-going, but I do have a lot of fun with where I am at in my life. What’s my favorite part of being a parent with embarrassing kids? It’s being out in public with them. I’m serious. You might think I’m joking, but here are some true stories that prove why you just need to laugh it off most of the time as a parent even if sometimes people don’t share in the same sense of humor. This first story happened over this last weekend. The incident inspired this post and made me question my value as a parent comedian.
Fast Food Carpool
This past weekend I took the boys to a local hotdog and beef sandwich joint near us. If you’ve ever tried to order at the fast-food microphone with kids nestled uncomfortably in their car seats only but a few feet behind you, you know that this is sometimes a damn near impossible task. Joey was singing, both impressively and obnoxiously, the song “Old Town Road” and refused to put his concert on hold. Teddy kept asking repeatedly over and over again if he could have a milkshake after I already said fourteen times that he could, and Tommy was chucking little toys he stores in the back of the van up towards the front. Considering the absolute chaos that was bursting at the seams, I was able to get our order out and prayed the teenage kid on the other end got it all right. Lord knows that if the order is ever wrong, the kids whine and complain, and they are incapable of understanding it was likely because the person couldn’t hear me over their madness. A long time ago, this would’ve embarrassed me, but like a once wild and free animal now in captivity, I have been broken and trained to accept the lawlessness of my children for what it is- kids just being kids. The shrills and screams rarely phase me these days, but I sometimes forget that this isn’t the norm for most people- especially those who do not have kids.
We pulled up to the window, I paid, and then the employee asked me to pull off to the parking spots in order to wait for our food. Like a dutiful father gathering food for his kids, I did so. The weather was nice, and knowing that winter is breathing down our necks, I decided to put the windows down, turn the van off, and just relax while we waited. We love this restaurant, but I knew it would be awhile. Moments after I did so, another car pulled into the spot next to us where they too would wait for food. The driver was a middle-aged gentleman, and it took me a minute or so to realize he kept periodically staring at me. His window was down as well, and I was a little on edge and uncomfortable after he kept looking, again and again, my way. I perked up a bit and tuned in to my surroundings. In doing so, I realized why he was staring at me. The boys’ volume level was absolutely deafening. I hadn’t realized it, but all three were now singing “Old Town Road” and to call it singing is giving my boys far more credit than they deserve. It was more like ear-piercing screams and nails on a chalkboard, but whatever, I am used to it. This gentleman clearly was not. In his defense, they were so loud! Jokingly, I looked at him, pointed at his car, pointed at mine, and shouted, “Want to carpool next time?”
I laughed because, well like I said, I think I’m hilarious.
He did not.
As a matter of fact, he gave this weird grunt and head nod, and then he rolled up his window.
In the words of Michelle Tanner from Full House, “How rude!”
I felt absolutely zero embarrassment because I don’t care who you are. If you can’t laugh at the sheer goofiness of children and appreciate the hilarity of certain situations they find themselves in, you’re likely not somebody I want to laugh with anyways.
Can I Offer You Some Syrup?
This one is an oldie but a goodie. We just had Joey, and I recall him sleeping in his carrier in a restaurant booth next to Michelle. After those first few stressful weeks of having a newborn and being stuck in the house most of the time, the fog finally lifted leaving us with a sense of bravery. One morning, Michelle and I decided to take the boys out to breakfast, and it would mark the first time we all went out to a restaurant as a brand new family of five. At the time, Teddy was a late three, Tommy a fresh two, and Michelle and I were seriously questioning our life goal of having three kids two years apart from each other. Our boys have always handled going out to restaurants fairly well because we tried to take them out when they were babies as often as we could so that over the years they’d learn how to behave. Selfishly, we also just felt like getting out as neither one of us likes burning a whole day doing nothing inside a house. Even though they were exposed to the general dining public at a young age, they’re still kids and have the occasional meltdown or mishap every now and then (Okay, actually like every time we go out to eat).
This particular story tells the tale of when Tommy, frustrated that I wasn’t cutting up his pancakes quickly enough because I took a brief second to fuel my sleep-deprived body with coffee, grabbed a cake and tossed it over his right shoulder, over the top of the booth, and onto the table of an elderly couple behind us. Like any other two-year-old would, he responded with an onslaught of giggles and belly laughs when he saw my mortified face. I quickly jumped up, spun around, and to my relief, I saw the couple was laughing as well. I grabbed the syrup on our table and put it on theirs.
“I figured you both might like some syrup with that pancake.” They laughed even harder and even though I apologized profusely, they said there was no need to do so. Phew! Now here were people who both understood and appreciated my humor and the downright silliness of the situation.
The lady, in between breaths of laughter, reminded me of something I sometimes forget as a parent. Longingly thinking of the past she said, “I promise one day you’ll miss these days, honey. Enjoy it because in the blink of an eye it’s gone.” She handed me back the pancake, we laughed again, and I sat back down to enjoy the rest of breakfast with my silly family.
Clean-Up in Aisle Three
When our kids were in diapers, I was notorious for playing a game of chance with the bladder and bowel movements of my children whenever I went out in public alone with them. I hated lugging around the diaper bag, and I sometimes gambled with whether or not to bring it. Most times, I’d justify not bringing it with because the trip would be quick, and as a result, I’d throw a diaper and a baggie of wipes in a back pocket and pray that only one change would be necessary. For a while, it was a flawless system that saved me from carrying around the baby survival bag we packed to the gills. What a monstrosity that thing was, and whenever I could, I left it at home. My method worked just fine for the first few months of Tommy’s life, until one day it didn’t.
He was about seven months, and we were at the grocery store tearing through that list in record time. It’s like I perfectly planned out my route throughout the store, and maybe, just maybe, we’d make it home for the start of the Bears game. Mind you, before we left I saw the diaper bag leaning up against the laundry room door, thought about it, and of course, decided against it. We’ll be an hour tops. We’re good. Plus, I’m pretty sure the boy is all cleaned out so far today. Flash forward a bit to the produce section of the store where I was picking out bananas. I moved to the front of the cart to pick them out, bagged them, and then placed them in our stash of groceries. When I came back to the rear of the cart where Tommy was sitting, a smell hit me like a sledgehammer to the face and almost toppled me over. “Holy Mother, Tommy!” Okay, no big deal. This will set us back a little bit. I reached for my back pocket, and to my dismay, I found myself smack dab in the middle of an unmitigated disaster. I forgot the diaper and wipes! Channeling my inner Scooby, I uttered, “Ruh Roh,” and waited for the panic to set in. It’s okay, you’re in a grocery store. Just go buy some wipes and diapers. It’s cool. Relax.
Taking my own advice, I laughed uncomfortably, set my cart off to the side, walked to the baby aisle, and grabbed the necessary items. Checking out was interesting as the wretched smell wafted all around us in line, but again, I tried to laugh at the situation instead of feeling embarrassed. People no doubt noticed the smell. It was fierce! Finally, it was my turn, and as I placed the items on the belt, the teenage girl checking us out asked if I had my Jewel card.
“Sorry, I don’t have it.” Ha! I forgot diapers, lady. There’s no way I can be trusted to carry around a grocery card!
“Those might be on sale. Phone number?” she asked impatiently.
“Umm, I’m not sure which one my wife uses.”
“It’s fine. I’ll just put one in for you.” She ferociously tapped at the keyboard, and I saw the price change on the monitor.
“Awesome, thanks so much. Throw in a free diaper change and that’s a deal right there. Do you guys do that here?” I reached for my wallet and chuckled. Obviously, it was meant as a joke.
She stared at me blankly, eventually blinked at me in disgust, and did that teenager eye roll I am all too accustomed to as a high school teacher. “No, sir. Please swipe your card.” The mom behind me thought it was funny, but it clearly fell flat on my intended audience.
Ouch. People are too serious these days.
I very well could have terrible humor and poor comedic timing, but at least I’m not taking myself too seriously. I’m laughing, and for me, that’s all that matters. People might stare at me with a baffled and confused expression like that checker. They might even judge me like the man in the car did. However, every now and then I get a laugh and a shared moment of humanity from people like the elderly couple in the restaurant. Whatever the response, I’m still going to enjoy the comical experiences my boys create. Parenting often presents us with some embarrassing and stressful situations, but I’m hoping you laugh it off and like that lady told me, enjoy it while it lasts. I sometimes forget this message when I’m drowning in the stress of the day, but I work at it as often as I can.