By Ben Mathewson on 13 February 2017
My dad is much like many others. He retains that larrikinism that most men can relate to. He is serious minded about his work, enjoys teaching maths and enjoys the woodworking aspect of his job as a cabinetmaking teacher at TAFE, but despises the onerous politically correct guidelines- not because he Is racist, or sexist, but because he likes the feeling of being able to say what he wants to say. For such a practical person, he likes his humour. Sometimes the ‘blue-er’ the better.
He also loves wordplay and puns- and for a young boy like me, who was a little less practical and a little more conceptual, it was a way for me to bond with him. Fast forward 25 years and I have inherited his sense of humour and ‘doubled down’ on it. No-one in our household or circle of friends is safe from pernicious puns and would-be witty wordplay. I remember my twelve-year old daughter saying to me that the Officeworks store had moved- to which I said: “That’s weird. Officeworks is mainly stationery”.
Their groans only make me stronger! *Evil laugh*
I also recall when my children ask if they ‘can quickly jump in the shower’, and I tell them:
‘You can get just as wet if you just stand in it’
Going to the supermarket is probably the least safe location to hide from my special blend of humour. I do things like stand in front of the washing liquid- transfixed, and when the children ask what I’m doing I tell them the label says ‘concentrate’
– Or when my children hand me a loaf of bread and I ask my son: “is the bread Helga’s?”
“Yes” he says, confused”
“GIVE IT BACK TO HER THEN!” I scold, with a smile on my face.
– Or when I look carefully at the eggs, and scratch my head.
‘Why are you looking at the eggs dad?’
‘It says they’re free range, but they aren’t moving anywhere!’
I perhaps shouldn’t go to Coles. There is too much inspiration for jokes. Last time I was there I saw a lady ahead of me at the checkout with three bottles of bleach and a bottle of detergent. It took a lot of self-control not to say: “Wow, big clean up! Who’s the victim?”
If I’m forced to be serious, I would say that there is something more developmentally significant going on. As kids get older they start to move out of the phase of concrete thinking into conceptual thinking, and start to enjoy thinking about words in a different way. In some ways making your first joke that someone laughs at is a rite of passage. Making sometimes ‘cringeworthy’ jokes is sometimes a way children try to get closer to siblings, and parents too. As they get past the cheesy ‘knock-knock’ phase and get older, they discover more forms of humor, and have a greater width of genre and nuance.
My older children have a particularly good sense of humour. At one stage, I found myself looking up at the top of our shed, noticing my then-10 year old son, Elijah, on the roof. I yelled at him to “GET DOWN!” He just looked at me for a moment, then started busting a move to some imaginary song.
Child = 1, Dad = 0.
My oldest, Sophie, also has a keen level of insight- which you can tell by the types of jokes she appreciates. One time we went to the corner shop to get groceries and I bought both chicken and eggs. As I swiped the products one at a time, she looked at me and said ‘Well now we finally know which comes first!’ Sophie also loves sarcasm, and believes her insults to be ‘sweet burns’. They are not. Faith, my second oldest is the queen of understatement and deadpan delivery; Elijah is quirky and imaginative, and Lily- who is just starting to understand humour- is giggly and silly. I have no doubt they will grate in their own children as much as I grate on them. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!
It is both pleasure and pain to watch my children- once tiny babies, grow into the glorious, complicated, frustrating, and responsible young adult versions of themselves, and it is heartbreaking to sense the tyranny of time as it moves forward with or without you. As we get older, I feel like many of us men believe there is less and less we can do to make positive changes. We are too stubborn at times, too tied to our ways, maybe a bit too broken, and not always the listeners we should be.
But one thing I do know for sure, is that a journey punctuated by wit, wackiness and irreverence can make parenting- and life, ultimately more worth living.