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Sunday, May 28, 2006

What's so funny?

So, the topic that Horyon remembered that I didn't was Maxine's sense of humor.

I was playing with Maxine, and she was in a laughing mood. She is a good-natured baby, but she isn't always laughing-happy. On this occasion, I found that if I turned away from her and took my glasses off, when I turned back she would laugh. Turn away again, replace the glasses, get another laugh.

What's so funny?

Humor is a hard thing to nail down even between adults, of course. Something that I consider to be hilarious might, to you, be lame, or vice versa. And if you have ever tried to delve into why exactly something is funny, you find that ultimately the answer is "It's funny because it makes me laugh." We all know that the best way to kill a joke is to explain it.

I enjoy making people laugh. Not that I've ever considered being a standup comedian, I just feel good when other people laugh at what I've said or written. I often incorporate humor into my classes, though I would consider it to be very basic humor. Slapstick seems to be funny across cultural barriers, such that I can get a laugh out of even the most stone-headed of my students by throwing in a Three-Stoogesque fake dope-slap upside someone's head. To encourage students to listen, I frequently throw in something funny, like threatening to throw a student out the window, or telling them that I will die if they don't improve their English. I teach the same lesson six times to six different classes, and by the 3rd time, I know what will make them laugh and how to milk it. (I also know which parts of the lecture they won't understand easily and how to make those parts clearer, but this post is not about education, but about humor. If you feel that you have been educated by this post, whether deliberately or accidentally, please feel free to complain.)

I believe that laughter is usually connected to surprise and incongruity. When we are suddenly confronted with something that is not what it should be, in just the right way, we laugh. So humor is closely connected to one's concept of normal. It's hard to figure out what Maxine will find funny, because she is still working on defining normal. Something that is funny to her one day will be normal the next, and therefore not funny. Maybe. Anyway, though we can often make her laugh, it is a bit of a stretch to guess at why she is amused. Here are some other activities (besides the glasses trick) that have been known to maker her laugh:

Horyon does a little dance that finishes by pointing with both hands at Maxine, who then laughs.

Tickly fingers, sometimes touching the chest/neck, and sometimes hovering ominously, accompanied by "Deedle-deedle-deedle" sounds.

Being picked up quickly and held over my head. (Strangely enough, Horyon does not like this activity, and always tells me to slow down. Except when she is being picked up, then she's all like "Higher, Rob, higher!")

Tongue clicking, especially when accompanied by nodding the head.

Playing with my face.

Sometimes just seeing one of us, especially after a long separation, makes her laugh.

She often laughs while getting her face cleaned. Ticklish lips, perhaps?

And here is something ominous to this father: she smiles and laughs and has a great time whenever we take her clothes off. I am really, seriously, ardently hoping that she will outgrow this one.

None of these activities are guaranteed to get a laugh, but all of them have, at one time or another. For a few weeks, Maxine thought it was very funny when I laughed. We had a small number of laughing conversations: I would laugh, she would laugh at me, back and forth for ten minutes. We actually caught a few minutes of one of these on video. I'm already looking forward to showing this to the first boyfriend she brings home.

Being quite small, she does not have a large reserve supply of laughter, and so she quickly runs out. You can tell that she is running out of laughter when her laughs last a shorter time, going from "He-he-he-he-heeeee," down to "He-he." It is also a sign of diminishing laughter when she stops squealing.

Often a laughter shortage can cause her to tap into her crying reserves, and vice versa. She easily and regularly gets into that mood where she's not sure whether she's laughing or crying, and in the end it can go either way. It's such a wonderful potential to see, like a large boulder balanced on the top of a hill. The right push can cause it to go either direction. Likewise, Maxine can be easily stimulated to go into full-blown tears or laughter. Being tired makes it more likely to be the former, but it isn't a guarantee.

It's an amazing thing, because we adults are always so much in control of ourselves. We rarely, if ever, let ourselves get to that place where the emotions are surging strongly, yet they haven't chosen a final direction to go. When I see Maxine going through this roller coaster, knowing that it will continue like this for a long time, my feelings are mixed. When I think back on my adolescence, and what a pain in the butt it was, I am quite happy to be where I am now, thank you very much. But part of me wishes that I could go back and ride the roller coaster with her, and experience life as a child again. The amazing highs and lows. When she is happy, that happiness is her entire life. When she is tired, she is completely grumpy. No apologies, no efforts to cover it up. No satisfaction until she sleeps. And when she is in pain, she does not hesitate to let anyone within earshot know about it

She is quite proficient at sitting up now, and is beginning to stand. She still needs to hold on to my fingers, but we caught her just yesterday standing while holding onto her... toy thingey.
I'm not really sure what this toy is. It has four big buttons that play notes that go together reasonably well (a major chord with the tonic repeated at the top of the octave), or a variety of children's favorites (Old McDonald, Bingo, Yankee Doodle, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and a nice little BeeGees medley). It also has little things that twirl around and make noise when you spin them, and a small plastic mirror. She likes it enough that we got a more expensive version to keep at Grandpa and Grandma's house.

(The one they have is more expensive because it has five notes, in a regular scale, and you can play them at the same time, just like on a real keyboard, and it plays a number of little songs, and has these stars that light up when you press the notes, and it actually sings the notes in a slightly disturbing childish chorus: "Doh, doh, doh." Best of all, if you leave it on, it gets lonely. It likes to be played with. It even plays a little song if you leave it alone for more than a couple of minutes. It doesn't give up. It demands attention until you turn it off or play with it. Needless to say, once we had opened the package and tried it out, I recommended that we allow Grandpa and Grandma to entertain Maxine with this one.)

So Maxine can stand. And standing, as most of you know, is often an intermediary step in falling down. Because Maxine is not so good at standing yet, we always keep a close eye on her while she is doing so. But we don't really watch that closely when she's sitting up. Still, the knock she gets on her head from falling over, even with a blanket on the floor, is enough to hurt. And she lets us all know just how much it hurts.

First there's a short cry, then the calm before the storm as she takes a deep, stuttering breath and wails. The tears come soon after, and continue until she is either exhausted, or distracted by something else.

"Your diaper is full. Mommy is far away. You are hungry, and you have just bonked your head. Isn't it time for a Pepsi?"



p.s. Don't hate on me. We don't feed Pepsi to Maxine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I went to "Next Blog" the other day and the blog had a video posted. So get with it!
Also this a Korean toy?
Uncle Bob

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