He just got it

It’s hard to believe that 14 years ago, my youngest son was born.

It seems like just a few months ago, he was talking to me in the car about being excited to ride the “roll-up posters” at Kings Island, and how his favorite dinner is “pasghetti.”

On the day he was born, he weighed 7 pounds, 8 ounces and was about 21 inches long. Now, he’s 150 pounds, and towers over my 5 foot 4 inch frame. Where I used to hug him and rock him to sleep, he now holds me when I’m tired of dishes, dirty laundry and dog walking.

And he’s always there to make me laugh.

Max is known for his sense of humor in our house. Whether it’s talking at the dinner table, or just popping off some little quip, he usually has us in stitches by the end of the day.

One day, my husband, Max and I were at dinner. Max, like usual, ordered a grilled cheese and French fries. And like usual, as a parent, my husband felt that he was entitled to a Daddy tax of a few French fries. As he grabbed a fry from Max’s plate, Max protested by pulling away his little cup of ketchup.

Of course, Max pulled it away a little too quickly, and the ketchup slurped out of the cup and spilled all over Max’s new surfing shirt.

Max looked up at his Dad a little scared, worried that he would be in trouble for getting his new shirt dirty.

But his Dad just smiled. Not one to miss a beat, his Dad dragged his French fry up Max’s shirt and through the ketchup, saying “You know what they say, Max…waste not, want not.”

Without skipping a beat, Max looked at his Daddy and said “You know what they say, Dad… I got this shirt from the hamper.”

But he wasn’t always that way.

When he was first born, Max looked like he was angry.

For the first three or four months of his life, Max didn’t smile. His face had a permanent sort of scowl  – furrowed brow, drawn down mouth, piercing eyes. He just looked at the world like he was trying to figure everything out. When people would come up close to him, he would cock his head slightly to the left and stare at people like they were aliens from another planet.

I remember my Mom putting him one of those wind up swings one day. We both thought that he would start to giggle like every other kid did. So we stood there and watched, waiting for a smile to break out on his face and little giggles to bubble out of his mouth.

But no, Max just looked like he was mad that the perspective kept changing.

To be honest, I felt like I was going to be cursed to have a disgruntled teen ager at age two.

I began to wonder if there wasn’t something wrong with him. In fact, I remember thinking I needed to take him to the doctor, but wondered what I would say to him.

“Well, doctor, the rest of us smile, and he doesn’t. There isn’t anything wrong with him, is there? It’s not like he could have been born without a funny bone or a sense of humor, right?” “The rest of us are funny… here, let me tell you a joke… see?”

We were concerned that if we didn’t do something our little guy would suffer, and us along with it.

Instead, we waited. And watched. All the while, Max scowled. And watched.

Then one day, he didn’t.

He was sitting in his swing while I did the dishes and his 2-year-old big brother, Mason, was playing with his feet and talking to him. Mason got right up into his face, stuck his tongue out at him and said something to him in that gibberish brothers learn to say to each other.

Max’s face swirled up into a grin. That spread into a smile. And that erupted into a giggle.

From there on, it never stopped.

Since then, he’s done stand up comedy as his talent in his fifth grade talent show, spent hours getting us laughing to the point of crying and coming up with some of the funniest one-liners we’ve ever heard. He’s written stories that have heroes turning paper and words into weapons, some of which were jokes that killed. He’s come up with new words that are part of our family vocabulary.

When the car gets dirty, he calls it a “kid sty.”

When I told him I was upset that neither he nor his brother ever got a “terrific kid” award from their elementary school for good behavior, his response that I should follow the car in front of us that had one of the said bumper stickers on it, until it pulled into a parking lot, at which time he’d be happy to hop out of the car and rip it off their bumper for me.

When I asked him the year before last if he’d like to have a video game playing birthday party with different systems in each room of the house, and each system accompanied by different snacks, candy, pizzas and cokes…. he said that would be pure Nerdvana.

It was like something went off in Max’s head that day and he finally got the joke. Better still, he wanted to tell it to us.

He still scowls when he doesn’t understand things, or when he’s frustrated with the rules that are set down for him that he feels are arbitrary and stupid. But as for the rest of the world… he gets it. And he’s ready to share the laughs with the rest of the world.

Lucky us.

© Liz Carey 2014

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