We’ve all heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine”. But, when we are at our saddest and most desperate, this saying rings hollow. Fear, anxiety and uncertainty take control of your body and you become blind to the joys of life that are so essential to moving us forward. However, as I laid there on the floor of my bathroom crying, I was about to learn that the most powerful laughter does not lie within myself. The most powerful, most healing laughter of all, was the laughter of my children.
I am not sure of the exact details of the events that brought me to my spot on the bathroom floor. Like so many emotionally big things in life, the trigger was small and not noteworthy. One thing was certain though, exhaustion was not helping. I had had a long and horrible night that had been preceded by a long and horrible week. Both the kids’ Dystonia was acting up and I was not sleeping. Trying to effectively parent two tired toddlers when you are sleep deprived and emotionally exhausted is as impossible as receiving the moon on a platter. I hate to admit it, but my kids were driving me crazy and I couldn’t cope.
Sadly, I had lost all perspective. I’m not sure what made me lose it, but all I remember is yelling. I don’t even think it was for anything important. But, here I was, losing it on my two little boys. Mid-rant, I froze. I heard myself. I don’t know what made me listen to myself, but I did not like what I was hearing. I was being unfair and I felt like a monster. Freaked out and unsure what to do, I did what any sleep deprived, irrational and emotionally overwhelmed person would do. I ran into the bathroom and hid. In tears, I called my husband at work. “I’m so tired,” I sobbed, “I can’t parent like this! I’m going to mess up our kids!” As I expressed my fears of inadequacy and not measuring up, my husband tried to calm me down and reassure me. But, I was like an over-tired toddler who just needs to lie on the floor and cry. So that’s exactly what I did.
I felt 20 years older than I actually was. It was as though my life was being sucked right out of me. I was up every hour at night with children in pain who would scream and cry and beg me to make it stop. But all I could do is hold them and rock them. The honest truth is that the phycological and emotional toll of watching my kids in pain was catching up to me. My lack of sleep compounded the issue by depriving me of the energy I needed to cope. I had no reserves to deal with kids being kids. I was sad and tired and I felt overwhelming fear that I could not be the mom they needed me to be. They needed more. They deserved more. And yet I had nothing more to give. I hated myself for not being stronger, for not being capable of more than I was. As I sat on the floor wallowing in my own exhaustion, I wondered how on earth I was going to survive this phase of life.
Then I heard it. The giggling. Crazy, hysterical giggles that made me get up and investigate what was happening on the other side of the bathroom door. I had this terrible thought that I was going to encounter something disastrous, like marker on the walls or poop all over the floor. But instead I found both boys sitting nicely on the floor laughing. When they saw me, they stopped and turned to look at me. “What’s so funny?” I asked my oldest. The baby was sitting with his legs outstretched and was smiling at me. All of a sudden he bust out laughing and his older brother followed suit. Between fits of laughter my oldest smiled and said, “I don’t know! Baby brother is just laughing. It’s funny!” Looking at them I couldn’t help but smile. The baby had the giggles and it was wildly entertaining for his big brother. The more his big brother laughed the more the baby laughed. And thus began the snowball effect for this hysterical fit they were having.
As I watched my baby, who at 17 months was not really a baby anymore, I couldn’t help but wonder what was so funny. So, I asked him. I don’t know why I asked him. I wasn’t expecting an answer. He couldn’t really talk. He had words, but not that many, and he had not yet begun to combine them. But, sitting there on the floor with his little legs outstretched and with a smile on his face, he did answer. The best most unexpected answer ever. “I happy!” he proclaimed.
His statement overwhelmed me. Not only did he speak his first crude sentence, but it was the best two words this tired mom could ever hear from her child. His timing was impeccable. I needed to hear something good, something to let me know all this struggle would pay off. This was the single greatest way my kids could ever give me that message. “I happy!” he said again clapping. His smile was big and his chipped front tooth and little dimple made me laugh too. “I Happy, happy happy,” he chanted between giggles. His older brother was now laughing so hard he fell over. This amused the baby so much that he squealed in delight and threw his head back in laughter. He lost his balance and fell over too. As I watched my two sweet munchkins rolling on the floor in a fit of joy, I couldn’t help but wonder how I could have been so upset only a few seconds earlier. I felt a warm sense of relief that my boys were seemingly unscarred and happy, despite my parenting fail.
They were now both laughing so hard they were turning red. The ridiculous scene before me was impossible to resist. I surrendered to the moment and I was now cracking up too. I sat on the floor with them and together the three of us laughed at absolutely nothing. I don’t know how long we sat there, but it was long enough to make my face and stomach hurt. Every time I heard my baby say, “I happy,” I could feel my energy stores filling and my world right itself. Hearing those two simple words made all the sleepless nights and emotional stress more than worth it. With all their pain and struggle, I had hoped and prayed for joy and happiness for my boys. Seeing this happen made my heart happy and put my tired soul at peace.
I was by no means going to be winning any parenting awards. But, my kids were happy, “happy, happy happy,” and that was more than I could ever wish for.