Laughter has certainly buoyed me through a lot of difficult days. Sometimes life is hard and situations aren’t funny in the moment but being able to laugh about them later is what kept me from sinking into despair. This is particularly true when I recall the turbulent years of raising my son with autism – particularly when we were stumbling through the time without an appropriate diagnosis.  Alex was a conundrum and I struggled constantly to understand him and what was going on.  Like the time he was in third grade and he complained one night at the dinner table that “they” were asking very personal questions at school. 

“Who?” I asked.

“The teacher,” Alex replied, looking very annoyed.

“What is she asking?” I asked.

“She wants to know my favorite color!” he fumed.  HUH?? This is a question too personal to answer?!!  I was stumped.  Alex’s sister suggested he could just make up one because it didn’t matter.  Alex stared at her in disbelief and queried, “Do you mean NOT tell the truth???”  He was aghast at the suggestion and my daughter, my husband, and I were left confounded.  I asked why the teacher wanted this information and Alex said that they were writing an autobiography. I don’t remember whether I even responded. I mean who really cares if anyone knows your favorite color?  Plus the thought of a third grader writing an autobiography certainly limits the field of what a kid could say about themselves that would be of interest. I can’t imagine that I did more than shrug. Even now – years later I’m still shaking my head.  At any rate, weeks passed and Alex came home from school one day with the reluctantly completed autobiography in his book bag.  Among the questions he answered was this one:  “What is your favorite hobby?”  Alex’s answer?  “Picking my nose.”  OMG!!! I re-read his answer carefully.  WTH???  Yep. He had actually written “picking my nose”.  I felt as if someone had pulled a rug out from under my feet and I was unbalanced for a moment.  Surely he had misunderstood the question.  I calmed myself and kept all the thoughts I was thinking to myself.  I showed it to my husband and he had the same look on his face I must have had when I first read it. Then he suggested that perhaps Alex had misunderstood the question. Maybe he had mistaken the word “hobby” for the word “habit”.  Yes. Exactly.  That MUST be it. However, later on, when Alex and I were riding in the car together I asked, “Alex, do you know what a hobby is?”

“Yes. It is something you enjoy doing so much that you do it as often as you possibly can.”  Hmmm. Okay, he knew the definition of “hobby” and, for sure, he had not misunderstood the question!

“So, Alex, in your autobiography I noticed that you said your hobby was picking your nose, is that right?” I inquired.

“Yes. I like to pick my nose,” he replied flatly. Hmmm. Now what?  After some consideration I proposed,

“Yes, I suspect most people like to pick their nose.  But picking your nose is sort of like going to the bathroom. It’s something people do in private. I would think that one of your hobbies might be reading or riding your bike.”

Alex stopped what he was doing and turned to look at me, which was most unusual. Then he said, “Yes, but you did not think I was going to tell them THAT, did you?”  Clearly, this was a deeply personal question and he felt it was better to say that he liked picking his nose than revealing that he really liked reading or riding his bike.  Again, I was stumped. What do you say to that????  I don’t remember saying anything because I probably didn’t . To this day I don’t know what would have been an appropriate response. I have often wondered what in the world the teacher thought when she read Alex’s answer?  And once again I wondered what was to become of my strange child?  But rather than going down that rabbit hole I let it go and laughed about it.  Of course, I didn’t laugh in front of Alex but in the privacy of my bedroom I began to laugh at the whole of it – his bizarre reaction, all the possibilities of the teacher’s reaction, and my own incredulous, head shaking reaction.  And you know what?  It still makes me laugh.  And thank goodness for that. I didn’t allow myself to get bogged down by embarrassment or complexities or misunderstanding.  I was able to see the humor in the situation and let the laughter lighten my mood about the whole situation. 

Many years later when I was working as an Advocate at the Autism Society of NC, a parent called me in tears about her son’s strange behavior and lack of ability to comprehend social cues. She told me that she just couldn’t understand him and neither did her friends or neighbors. She told me that he was always embarrassing her and she was at her wit’s end. Then she related a recent story in which her son had overheard a woman at their community pool talking about a party she would be hosting that evening and he mistakenly thought that meant that he was invited. When the party started her son went next door and walked in, thinking he was a guest. He went to the buffet table and helped himself to a plateful of food.  The hostess came into the room, told the poor kid that he had not been invited, and ordered him to leave.  Without argument the young boy took his plate of food and walked out the door as the woman held it open for him. What made the woman fairly furious was that immediately after she closed the door, the youngster rang the doorbell and asked if he could have some punch to go with his food. The neighbor was incensed by what she felt was bold and rude behavior. The mother was terribly embarrassed when the woman called to tattle on her socially inept middle schooler.  Me?  Well, I had complete empathy for the hapless kid who didn’t see that he’d done a thing wrong and for the poor mom who couldn’t grasp that her son simply lacked maturity and social skills. I had no sympathy whatsoever for the rude neighbor who apparently took life much too seriously. And I said all of this as nicely as I could to the mom and then began to laugh at her darling son’s complete innocence.  I told her that if he’d been my neighbor I would have been happy to have him as my guest.  The mom said, “Really?” and then we began to laugh together.  Some times laughter can change the perspective.

The ability to see humor in bizarre situations has bound me to a host of moms of kids with autism.  Laughing together has eased our pain, lightened our load, and bonded us by our uniquely human condition.  I have been beyond grateful for their presence in my life.  Together we have grown stronger and better as mothers and human beings. That, in turn, has allowed us to be able to reach out to others and help to lift them up and walk onward in this journey called life.

12 Comments

  1. Your attitude is priceless! Bless you for bringing laughter to our attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading. Your kind response means so much

      Liked by 1 person

  2. heimdalco says:

    In the midst of a very hectic & sad several days as my husband’s very ill brother passed away, I decided to take a moment to read this. I’m glad I did because your telling your son’s story about his favorite hobby made me laugh & today I needed that release especially. Thank you for sharing this lovely & funny story. If we are able to laugh in the saddest of times, that makes us realize that there is light shining through the clouds & just up ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sending you light and love for these difficult days, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. quiall says:

    Sometimes laughter is the life ring we hang onto to keep from drowning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed. I certainly have used that very life ring and thank goodness for it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Celia Hales says:

    I liked and appreciated this. More often I think I need to laugh at my own reactions to life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your response made me smile.

      Like

  5. gwenthinks says:

    Wonderful perspective – thank goodness for laughter!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and responding!

      Like

  6. 0w8ing says:

    ya know? Pandemic/Political-Regression/Rampant-Denial, and so much more relentlessly frayin’ and grayin’… has taught a LOT of us that we know less than we thought we might, and that perplexing behavior actually shines with the light of authenticity, after all. Recognizing the humor is a sign of maturity, I say.
    Turning to a daily dose of British comedy shows was my lifejacket, these past three years; now that sense of humor has become my Cape.. my Superpower… although it’s clear that I have lots of practice.. to do.
    The non-profit, ArtsAccess, has chosen the theme for 2023: “Artful Living”. Thank you for posting your distillations of the same brew.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This delightful response made me smile 😊

      Like

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