Babies are easy. Usually. You throw them in the air, pretend to bite them, tickle them, or play peek-a-boo. They laugh and giggle, sometimes till they cry. Then they get older, and your inane rhyming sounds and blowing raspberries don’t cut it any more.
Your child is learning humour and you know you really must join the party or let your kid get totally stifled by the seriousness and stress of modern urban existence.
Trupti Bhaidas says she rediscovered laughter with her six-year-old son, Vinit. “Unlike me, he finds everything funny, and while it can sometimes be a bit annoying, I think it’s so much better than having a cranky child the whole time.”
But, recently, at the school open day, her son’s stern class teacher was not at all amused. “She complained that Vinit was laughing ‘unnecessarily’ and making all the other kids laugh, too. And she wanted me to reprimand him,” says Bhaidas.
For Vinit’s mom, this is a catch-22 situation; on one hand, she thinks her son’s laughter is the ultimate reflection of his happy state of mind and, on the other, the teacher wants him reined in. “Somehow laughter and happy children just don’t fit in with the school’s academic scene,” she says.
Kerman Rana’s kids, Rushaad, 10, and Vanaaz, 13, think their dad can be quite a funny guy. Ever since his kids were little, he would constantly play pranks on them, tease them or involve them in some form of humour that they could understand.
As they grew older, academic pressures started mounting and now he thinks, “keeping humour going is even more important because my kids lead such extremely stressful lives”.
Academic pressure in most mainstream schools mounts as children cross the age of 10 and, increasingly, “their lives are only about homework, schoolwork, charts, projects, exams and tests”, says Freida D’Souza, mother of 10-year-old Lisha and four-year-old Shaun.
Mamta Mangaldas, whose daughters, Ayesha and Amaya, are aged 10 and 12 knows, it’s hard to keep humour alive, but believes that it’s very important to lighten things up a bit. “Often, it’s difficult to get past all that needs to be done and just have a laugh together. I realize that I have to make a serious attempt to keep humour alive in our lives.” She encourages her kids to tell her jokes and, though she doesn’t really think much of them, laughs when her kids recite limericks.
For Rana, humour is key to diffusing anger. “I’m a hot-headed guy and so is my wife. When the situation is stressful and heated, I try to calm things down and make things a little lighter for the kids.”
Some of the first things school-age children find funny are the three P’s (pee, poop and puke) and D’Souza has no problem joining Shaun in these jokes, even though her own mother thinks such humour must be discouraged, even forbidden. Rana, too, has no problem with such humour, but he’s more into playing pranks and jokes on his kids.
So much so that a few days ago, his daughter played exactly the kind of joke on her mother that her father is famous for. She hid the maid in the loo, hid her slippers on the next floor and then lamented to her mom when she returned from work that the maid had not shown up “yet again”. “She waited till my wife blew her fuse and said all kinds of angry things, before calling the joke. It’s corny stuff,” says Rana, “but it’s absolutely essential.”
Nine-year-old Kylemarie’s father, Brian Almeida, agrees. He and his wife poke fun at each other and often have silly banter going, which he considers very important in teaching a child that you can and must be able to laugh at yourself. “I also kid her a little, so she learns not to take everything seriously,” he says. For instance, “We’ll make mild fun of her teachers or school and she’ll immediately defend them, and then realize that we’re just being playful.”
Mangaldas finds that, “It’s interesting how after age 10, their sense of humour evolves. For instance, my girls now like word-play and are beginning to understand puns in some situations.”
The latest humorous development in her family? Her daughters have started using sarcasm when they want to be funny, and then, to ensure that their mom hasn’t missed the point, they’ll announce loudly: “sarcasm”.
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