Sunday, November 20, 2011

GBE2 Challenge: Laughter

I remember our older son's first laugh, and I mean his REAL laugh--from the belly. He was 15 months old.

Until that point, I really don't think he laughed much. And, while I was an exhausted, fried, crazy-from-sleep-deprivation new mom, this is something I remember well.

He was an untamed animal, up at strange times a night, climbing, running, BOLTING. He didn't stop. What was worse, for all the effort we gave to chase him, to pull him out of things, to keep him safe...we got next-to-nothing in return. While I don't need accolades from my children for all that I do for them, when a mom works just THAT HARD, anything will serve as reinforcement.

A glance. I didn't dare hope for a lingering look. Just some sort of recognition that I was THERE and a part of his world.

But, no. And his lack of engagement fueled me more. He was a child on his own, moving at a frantic pace through this world. No smile. No gleeful play. What was wrong with him? What a terrible existence to move through life with no joy.

All children deserve joy.

And, yet, try as I may, I couldn't bring joy to my own child. Oh, we chased joy an awful lot. What was that? Did he smile? He's playing with a toy at a friend's house. He must love that toy! I simply must get that toy!! That's how we handled it: we threw money at it. Any random toy. Any item of clothing or an odd video for which he showed even a slight affinity, we moved mountains to provide for him.

What we ended up with was a child with nary a smile and a whole pile of unused stuff.

I don't have many pictures of myself in those days. Carrying baby weight and more hormonal than I realized, ugh, I was not myself. Add the sleep deprivation and the beads of sweat ever on my forehead from running in my blubber suit after this child with boundless energy, and, well, I was a big mess.

I remember that when he was fifteen months old, he developed an interested in the dog's water bowl, which was located on the linoleum floor of our small kitchen. We had two small dogs which were carry overs from my single years--back when I loved them more than food or a good pair of shoes. lol! They had moved far down on the list of importance in our house with the arrival of a baby, however, I drew the line at their water bowl. A dog deserved water, and, well, this child was just going to have to learn to NOT play in the water bowl.

He had different ideas. He didn't care what I said to him. He didn't care if I removed him from the water bowl, he would simply walk right back to it. He was a machine, focused so intently on the bowl that I began to put it up and out of the way. Of course, that's when petmommy guilt would kick in, so I was always aware of who was in that spot in the kitchen--a pet looking for water or a child looking to get into trouble over the water?

One morning after a sleepless night with this child, I was moving at a zombie's pace in our family room when I heard the clanking of the water bowl in the kitchen. Ugh. I realized with dread that I had forgotten to put up the bowl, and I quickly ran into toward the noise in an attempt to minimize the damage.

Just a single step onto that linoleum floor, I discovered that it was too late. I slid in a large pool of water from the upturned bowl--and I don't mean a little slip--I slid, both my feet went out from under me, and I landed on my back with my legs straight in the air. And then, for good measure, I did a nice skid across the floor in that position.

That is when I heard it: a belly laugh that came straight from my son's toes and out of his smiling mouth. I wish I could share the picture of him in my mind's eye. Due to my elegant position on the floor, he is sideways, but he is still gloriously happy!

He laughed!! Something made him laugh! And, the best news was that he was laughing at me!! Ok, I did feel a bit of a fool, but those feelings were gone when I realized that my son was laughing at how ridiculous I was! And, he was right! I WAS ridiculous! How absolutely miraculous.

Practically speaking, I didn't know much about autism in those days. He wasn't even diagnosed with a speech delay at that point, and his autism diagnosis wouldn't come for another nine months--just when his brother entered the world. But, still, I knew enough to feel encouraged by his laughter. I didn't know where it would take us. All I knew was that he was, in fact, IN THERE!

I didn't know what I was going to do to bring him out, but, in that moment, lying in a soggy mess on my kitchen floor, his laughter gave me hope.


  1. What a great story! And since his earlier interests were all rewarded with similar toys or videos, did you not resolve to flop across the kitchen floor every day to get that laugh again?

    What a moment that must have been!

  2. What a wonderful glimpse of hope! Great post.


  3. Thank you both! And, no, no more trips across the floor for me! However, we did go over the top to try to bring out his laughter. That poor kid. We had to learn a lot on him!

  4. How sad that there is no video of you and then of his reaction! Now that would be a AFV winner, no doubt.
    Great story and I am so glad it YOU who brought out that first big belly laugh, as it should be.

  5. A wonderful story well-told. I can only imagine your joy, your relief, your pain.... : - )

  6. That's a great story, but I'm glad you didn't get hurt.


  7. What a wonderful story of laughter and hope and the joy of connection!

  8. what a great moment.. a memory forever. :D

    i am a new follower. i hope you will stop by my site and follow my life stories...

  9. What a moment of joy. sigh.

  10. The worlds greatest medicine doesn't come in the form of pill, it comes in small dosages from the depths of life and yes, you have described it so well.....its laughter!
    Wonderful entry!
    Marc :)

  11. As ever, Amy, you made me laugh and get a bit teary, all in one go. Can so see the epic fall, and his laughter. Pratfalls are THE best thing for making anyone laugh... maybe because it is usually guilty laughter, knowing we shouldn't really be laughing at all ;o)

  12. Ah, pratfalls. They will be the downfall of the most stoic of us all. I adore the delight that smack landing on your ass was able to bring. In my house it would only bring a cavalcade of F-bombs. Your grace under pressure is amazing.