I refused to take another step. Our family of five had trekked around San Francisco for five days on foot (the trolleys were always full) and my legs felt like lead. My husband was tired too, but he wanted us to hike Muir Woods before we left for home the next day.
Looking at the faces of our 11- and 13-year-old, I could tell they weren’t enthusiastic about going up yet another hill either. Wondering how we could solve this situation while keeping everyone happy — no small feat for any family! — I glanced over at our youngest.
Eight-year-old Lindsay had jumped to the front of our pack and was brandishing a walking stick as a baton. “Thanks for tuning in to the Lunge Lindsay aerobics class,” she announced. “Today we will hike to the top of this mountain. Just put one foot in front of the other, folks, and follow me!” Then she turned around and began climbing.
The rest of us, too startled to think, followed.
Lindsay’s continued actions and comments were so hysterical that afternoon that we laughed during the rest of the hike. To this day we still chuckle about how “Lunge Lindsay” got the family to climb that mountain together.
In his book The Seven habits of Highly Effective Families, Stephen Covey, father of nine, says this about family humor: “In our family the central element that has preserved the sanity, fun, unity, togetherness, and magnetic attraction of our family culture is laughter—telling jokes, seeing the “funny” side of life, poking holes at stuffed shirts, and simply having fun together.”
One of our family favorites is to watch funny old movies together, like Abbott and Costello and “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Another is to cut out comics and place them on the refrigerator for everyone to share (Family Circus is a favorite!). I have also taken photos of the kids when they do something silly, like try on Grandma’s old hats and gloves and pretend they are “grown-up.” These photos are displayed around the house to give each room a special “funny” memory.
By doing these things, my husband and I hope to create cheerful people who are happy, full of good stories and who other people will want to be with.
There’s also humor’s healthy aspect. Mental health professionals know that people who laugh at their mistakes recover faster from illness than perfectionists. The Bible says “A merry heart doeth good like medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22)
Chuck Swindoll, father of four, concurs with humor’s mental health aspect in his book Home, Where Life Makes Up Its Mind, “Laughter is the most beautiful and beneficial therapy God ever granted humanity.”
Keep in mind that what one family finds humorous or fun to do together, another might not. The secret is to be alert to personalities and interests.
Humor has also been a healing power in our family.
One night 10-year-old Chris had pushed my last button. I wanted to give him a lecture along the lines of “How many times have I told you not to do that!” I also wanted to punch something — maybe him! Yet, I knew that was not healthy or the right thing to do.
Finally, I stood up straight, shook my finger at him and warned, “If you don’t behave, I’ll pull your ears!”
When my daughters, who were in the room, heard my words, they started laughing. I joined them, feeling better than I would have, had I given in to my natural impulses. Chris smiled faintly, startled at my response but obviously weak with relief. He behaved better – for a while.
That “pull your ears” statement has become famous around our house. In fact, my kids tell their friends about it, guffawing each time. I don’t care. In fact, I rejoice in it! Family laughter is truly a gift and to be able to make my own kids laugh — it’s almost sacred!