I finally managed to get the words out between laughs. “Noah… [laugh] you… [laugh] just… [laugh] got… [laugh] more… [laugh] [laugh] [laugh] time… [laugh] added… [laugh] on.”
“But Dad, you were laughing at it and you shouldn’t laugh at stuff that’s bad!” he said.
This only made me laugh harder. I was out of control at this point. I couldn’t say anything. The back of my head started pulsating with pain the laughing was so bad.
“SHIT! SHIT! SHIT! SHIT! SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!”
I just shook my head with desperate tearful eyes, unable to speak. He began laughing almost as hard as I was, and soon found himself overtaken by a laughing fit of his own.
I didn’t know what to do. He obviously felt that repeatedly dropping the S-bomb was thoroughly entertaining me. It clearly was entertaining him to the point that any punishment was very much worth it to him. And I knew that it was my fault that a mixed message was being given. But geez. When you get the laughing fits, there’s not a whole lot you can do to stop them.
I finally locked myself into the bathroom until it was under control. I looked in the mirror and surveyed myself as I regained my composure. My cheeks were tear-stained from all of the laughing.
I bit my lip and opened the door. Noah was still giggling. I used every bit of super human strength I had to keep from laughing again.
It didn’t work. And back into the bathroom I went. I got it half-way under control, and when I came back out I told him, “Noah, here’s the deal. You still gotta do your uh-oh and we’re gonna start the time right now. But I want you to promise me you won’t say that word again, okay?”
“Okay, Dad,” he said still giggling.
He looked at me with those giant eyes. I could tell that he was dying to say it again. He was trying so hard not to. But he wanted to see me laughing again. Don’t do it. He needed to see me laughing again. Don’t do it!
The suppressed laughter was pushing full-force against the back of my throat.
His eyes got unbelievably bigger.
The corners of his lips curled up even higher.
His nose scrunched to a tiny point.
Don’t. You. Dare.
That’s when I truly understood the term rolling on the floor, laughing out loud. And to be honest, I don’t remember a lot of what happened after that.
I do remember the lessons I learned that day.
I learned that semi-innocently swearing kids can be really funny.
I learned that the human body can physiologically only handle so much stress before it will break and find some way to release some of the pressure. Usually that is going to be through tears, whether by laughing or crying. I also learned that if we don’t do what is necessary to relieve that stress when we feel it building, we will probably not get to choose when that stress gets relieved.
I also learned that sometimes we really need to experience moments like this one to reset us. Something about Noah’s shit-word spree and the hard laughter that ensued for both of us was therapeutic. It made me feel like I could keep going. It made me realize that Noah’s words were true. “We don’t need this shit, Dad!”
More than anything, I learned that when we find it difficult to find those reasons to laugh, our kids will always make it possible if we can see past the immediate need to parent, and just let them do their job.
Dan Pearce, from my book: The All-Important, Well-Fed, Giant White Man
Last Chapter: An Hour to Kill
Next up: Who Stacked the Quarters?
If you would like to start from the beginning, or catch up on a missed chapter, you’ll find all the chapters I’ve published so far by clicking here.
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