Note of caution: it’s never appropriate to make fun of a child. The purpose of this article is to help a parent’s stress by finding humor in their situation, private humor–never to be shared with the child or anyone else who will share it with the child.
Things can only go downhill so far until you lose it. Troubles build, going from bad to horrible, and then your child says something so bizarre or silly, and even though it may be politically incorrect, and even though it may seem sick or hurtful or embarrassing, there is absolutely nothing left to do but laugh.
“That boy gave me so much trouble, then one day he said to me, “Mom, why is it always about you?” !
–Mother of an 18-year-old son with mild schizophrenia
Stop pretending your family is normal.
For parents like you, humor is necessary, even “gallows humor.” Laughter is a legitimate strategy for relieving stress, and brain scans prove it. An emergency room nurse once told me that ER staff joke about patients to cope with the intensity of their job, but only among co-workers. They diagnose some victims as “too stupid to live,” or refer to motorcyclists as “organ donors.” The police joke amongst themselves about knuckleheads. A juvenile justice therapist told me her team tells youth sex-offender jokes!
“… as high as 94 percent of people deem lightheartedness as a necessary factor in dealing with difficulties associated with stressful life events.”
–David Rosen, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Texas A & M University, May 2005
Even if you child-proofed your house, they would still get in.
You have permission to laugh at all the crazy, zany, exasperating, nonsensical, and nutball things your child does or says, just never in their presence… or in anyone’s presence who doesn’t understand. It doesn’t mean you don’t love or care your child, but it helps your own mental health. In the support groups I run, a parent will occasionally share a funny story about their troubled child and the room roars with laughter.
The 15-year-old girl had professed suicidal thoughts for so long that no one could remember a time when tragedy wasn’t looming. They had locked up every potentially dangerous item, but the terrified parents were never certain they could keep her safe from herself. Removing the knives and rope was obvious. But household chemicals? Daily life became a quest to guess what else she could possibly use to kill herself, then hide it. But her mother realized one day that her daughter would probably not ingest household chemicals. They tasted too bad, and mom knew she would not go through the discomfort.
You can’t scare me, I have teenagers!
At health class in high school, the students saw a film about trauma in children. Upon returning home from school, a 14-year-old son exploded with fury, berated his mother, then charged off to his room and slammed the door, once, twice, three times. The mother was accustomed to this behavior and went to his room and attempted to calm him down. He screamed, “I finally found out why I’m having so many problems! I learned in health class that I am a ‘feral child’ because you abandoned me when I was a baby!“
The 20-year-old schizophrenic son angrily obsessed that his mother spoke with his school counselor when he was 11. He railed that this invasion of privacy was wrong, immoral, hurtful, illegal, unethical, and stupid, and every other sin he could think of. Mom learned to let him vent, but one day she became exasperated and said, “That was nine years ago! I apologized a hundred times. What more do you want?” The son stopped for a moment, confused, and said, “I don’t believe you. Did you erase my memory again?”
The 16-year-old daughter had bipolar disorder. She also had grandiose plans to become a famous person and lead an “epic” life. She was immensely proud of having an ‘exciting’ disorder that gave her permission to be crazy. Once she made an unsuccessful attempt to lose weight, explaining, “I tried anorexia but didn’t have the discipline.”
The main purpose of holding children’s parties is to remind yourself that there are children more awful than your own… or maybe not.
The mother of a violent 10-year-old daughter said “I just bought a gallon of spackle on sale, which is great. Spackle is my friend!” Another mother with a violent 16-year-old son agreed. She said she’d become skilled at repairing and texturing dry wall after all the damage he’d done. Both moms brainstormed starting a company to repair homes battered by troubled children. “It would help the parents, and we could offer support too… and not judge!”
Several parents with troubled children were sharing their frustration from hearing ‘normal’ families talk proudly about their wonderful children, and the fun things they did together. Each parent had had similar experiences, which made them feel a mix of emotions–embarrassed, ashamed, left out. One mom finally blurted, “Those stupid happy families, I hate them!”
Do you have a funny story or quote to share about your child? Please add it in the comments section–you’ll lift another parent’s day.