Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Why So SERIOUSSSSAH?

Here's a go-to funny/goofy/horrifying/boner-killing face when things get too heavy.
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It was sunny and 53 degrees in March, which meant every single person in Michigan was outside in shorts. I took my kids to the nearby park to enjoy some fresh air after a 3-month hibernation under gun-metal grey skies. This was the type of day not to be wasted by true Michiganders, because another deep freeze probably wasn't far off and it would last for at least 10 days.

"Isn't this amazing?"A fellow freed mother said to me as we were pushing our kids on neighboring swings.

"Oh my gosh, I needed this SO bad," I said.

"Right? My kids were driving me nuts being indoors all the time!"

"HIGHER MAMA!" my son yelled.

"Okay.. get ready!!" I reared my arms back and gave him a hard shove. He squealed with glee as he soared into the air.

"Poop! Fart! BUTTS!" said the little girl on the next swing. Adorable dimples sank into her cheeks as she laughed and laughed at her outburst. I giggled with her and looked over at her mom, who was not on board.

"Lauren, no thank you. Let's not use those words, please!"

"I have a farty butt! I have a farty butt!" she continued. I laughed even harder which only encouraged her impromptu comedy set: Lauren! Live at the Swings!

"I have a poopy butt!!" my son added as he swung past and they both cackled with laughter.

"I'm so sorry!!" said the mortified mom.

"Oh, don't worry about it. My son is a big fan of all of those words!"

The kids continued with their poop-fart symphony, laughing and swinging the whole time.

"Lauren Marie! We do not use potty words like that! Stop it now!" said the mother who was getting angry now.

"POOP BUTTS!" my son yelled.

"Buddy, that's enough poop talk," I said out of obligation for Lauren and turned to the mother, "I'm sorry."

"Oh, don't worry, my daughter started it. I think she's learning it at pre-school or something. It's so annoying!"

"Farty poopy," Lauren whispered to my son and they giggled that perfect kid-giggle that always puts a smile on my face.

"Okay... off the swing. We're leaving, Lauren. You know Mama does not like that potty language."

Lauren's face fell as she slid off the swing. Her mother continued to lecture her as they walked away and into their car.

"Is she in trouble, Mama?" my son asked.

"Well, her mom just didn't like her saying those potty words, buddy."

"Oh. Mama?"

"Yeah, bud?"

He jumped off the swing, let out a clapper fart, laughed and ran to the slide. I laughed, too... I mean, farts are funny.

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For as long as I can remember, I've always been a total goofball. Making funny faces, contorting my body and speaking in accents or voices that aren't my own, were just the pastimes of my childhood. Back in 2nd grade, I'd do impressions for my brother of the kid who always fell off his chair in my class (everyone had that kid, amiright). I'd do a physical comedy routine mimicking how that boy fell off his chair almost everyday. I'm sure my body took a beating constantly tumbling off our kitchen chairs, but seeing my brother double-over in laughter to the point of barely breathing made it all worth it. He was my first audience and I was totally hooked. From a very early age, I knew I needed comedy in my life, and if I wasn't able to watch it on tv, I'd create it myself with a mirror and my nutball brain.

Growing Pains
Being an adult is serious business. Just ask Linda. Don't know Linda? Wrong... we ALL know a Linda. She's the person in your life who never lets you forget how depressing being an adult can be. Whether she's going on about her property taxes or the thrill of curbside grocery pickup, she paints that picture of adulthood that makes you long for a time when you didn't think about your cholesterol on the regular. Don't get me wrong, all of those things are important and as boring as they may be, I've performed my adult duties pretty well; I give firm handshakes, have real wine glasses in my house and own at least TWO blazers. I was always in a hurry to grow up... but I knew I never wanted to be a Linda.

What I mean is, I never wanted to lose that goofy side of myself. As a child, it always seemed like adults were very serious drones who only talked about the news, house upkeep and their office jobs. As a lot of us know, getting older means more responsibilities where things just naturally get more serious; health issues, aging parents, money, marriage, kids, insurance jargon, retirement planning, etc. While I can't really brag about doing all the "adult" things perfectly, I can proudly say that my fun side has remained intact.

What's the DEAL with Cancer?
Easily one of the most grim times in my life was my father's battle with and subsequent death from prostate cancer. There were so many dark days full of fear and helplessness, but thanks to my father's innate comedic sensibilities, he could also lighten the mood while the rest of us were struggling to keep it together.

My Dad treated his oncologist appointments like a social visit. He always made a point to make every nurse or medical assistant smile by cracking a corny joke. At his memorial, his oncologist shared a particularly funny moment after she had informed Daddy that chemotherapy was the only option. "Well, I'm already bald, so that's fine," he had said. For a cancer doctor, patients like my dad who could bring levity were a necessity for survival, she expressed.

My darkest day with his illness is burned in my memory. My mother was working late at the salon and my dad had had an accident in the bathroom. Given his physical limitations from the cancer along with his terrible eyesight, he wasn't sure if he'd cleaned it up very well, so he called and asked if I could stop by after work. I heard so many emotions with each crack in his voice; shame, sadness, anger, frustration.

"I don't want Mummy to have to clean it up after working all day," he said.

"Of course, Daddy, I'll come straight from work."

A couple hours later, I walked into the dark house and found my father sitting on the couch in silence. I didn't say a word, just got the supplies and cleaned the bathroom until it was spotless. After I was done, I sat next to him on the couch and turned on a lamp.

"Was it really bad?" he asked.

"Not at all," I lied, "You pretty much got all of it." He nodded slowly, refusing to make eye contact.

"How about some dinner? Can I make you something?" I asked. Daddy said he hadn't eaten all day and was pretty hungry.

"Okay, I'll see what's in the kitchen... as long as it's not refried beans considering what I just cleaned up in there..."

Not at all sure how that would land, I turned to Daddy and poked his arm jokingly. A slow smile crept across his face and he nodded for a few seconds.

"No chocolate either..." he responded with a chuckle.

It wasn't much, but it was enough.

Children At Play
Once you have kids, you change. I don't care who you are or where you come from... parenting is an all-consuming test of will, patience, stamina, gag-reflex and a host of other crevices of your mentality you had never exercised before. Since I waited until I was 32 to have my first kid, I saw friends go through those tough first years of parenting while I was still baby-free. The change was subtle, but I could sense the vibe was much more serious as their priorities shifted to the needs of their progeny. I wondered if I'd go through the same thing when I became a parent. I wondered this while laying in bed at 10:45 am on a Sunday because I had just woken up... sighhhh.

Cut to a few years later and YUP, I had boarded the same boat as those dear friends. I never judged their seriousness; it was just an observation of how fast people "grow up" once a kid is in the picture. And you SHOULD grow up and be serious. My kids quickly shoved my priorities into the correct lane. Sure those all-nighters binge-watching Dexter were fun, but I'd always feel bad about my-- nope, those nights were awesome and I'll never regret them.

Kids see the world so differently and it's a much better view than our old-asses have. I wasn't prepared for, well, a lot of things, but especially the fun of experiencing life vicariously through them. In those moments of adult seriousness, they remind me that not everything needs to be so heavy all the time. My days are full of goofball antics like salsa dancing around the kitchen as I prepare a meal or speaking in a dopey voice when I ask them about their day. The type of fun is different from the pre-kid era, but it's no less enjoyable.

I need the humor just as much as they do to cut the tension of being a grown-up. It's a form a self-care... much cheaper than the spa or gym membership!

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Back to the opening story. I probably sound super judgey of the mother and her potty language rules. All I saw was two kids just having fun, but she saw her daughter breaking a rule and that's her motherly prerogative. Just because I don't mind those words (in the proper setting), doesn't mean she should feel the same way. My hope for her and Lauren, however, is that whatever does bring them joy and levity is held onto with great might and not to forget the fun amidst the rules.

As you get older, things only get more serious. I've seen many people in my life abandon that lighter side of themselves and it bums me out, because I knew those friends before the metamorphosis occurred. I'm not saying people should never grow up, but I'm living proof that one can be a responsible adult and still perform a flawless fart fake-out. That's where you tell everyone to quiet down in a serious tone and then rip a huge fart to cut the silence. It's a classic Janak Desai trick that I'm honored to keep alive and hopefully my children will do the same after I'm gone.

If it's not my real children pulling me down out of the dark clouds of adulthood, then it's my inner child, who so desperately wants to stay alive and well. I nurture all of them the best I can... and, by all means, protect them from Linda.

Farts.

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