By Gregory Keer
in the traffic jam of the last year, I lost control of my favorite
vehicle of parent-child bonding: making my kids laugh. I became
so wrapped up in the relentless responsibilities of life that my
funny bone resembled a car wreck.
Rather than find a moment to engage in a tickling game, I found
myself hustling my kids from dinner to bed, racing against a buzzer
signaling the end of my daily energy. Instead of reading funny books
or singing silly songs, I was getting the kids ready for a gym class
or soccer practice or just shushing them to keep the noise down.
I was just too stressed and irritable to find much humor in my family
Then, one autumn night after a hectic workweek, we were having dinner
with friends. We had eaten well, the kids had been playing beautifully,
and we were finishing dessert. I noticed how much Benjamin (6 years
old) and his buddy David chuckled at the way my younger son, Jacob
(3), secretly horded all the unclaimed cake from around the table.
I couldn't help laughing too, and this just sent the kids into more
hysterics. And something about the dessert and feeling of seeing
them so happy reminded me of a favorite Bill Cosby skit.
"Do you guys know the story of "Chocolate Cake,"
"No! Tell it, Daddy, tell it!" Benjamin shouted.
"Well, this guy, Bill, gets awakened by his wife and is told
to make breakfast for his children," I begin, recounting the
skit imperfectly. "He goes downstairs and doesn't know what
to make, since he doesn't usually cook. When his little daughter
comes down, Bill asks, 'What would you like for breakfast?' The
little girl responds, 'Chocolate cake!'"
Benjamin and David giggled giddily at this, encouraging me all the
"So Bill stops, looks at the cake on the counter behind him,
and thinks, 'Eggs, milk, wheat
Nutritious! Chocolate cake is
good for you!"
The boys busted up again.
"'One slice of chocolate cake coming up!'" And I did the
Cosby special effect of cutting the delicacy, "'Jjjooom!'"
Jacob loves special effects, so this had his raspy giggle chiming
in as the kids laughed all the way through the story, falling over
each other, and watching me with tears in their eyes. Frankly, as
I looked at my own sons, I too welled up, joyful as the cause of
They made me tell the skit a couple more times that night and Benjamin
badgered me to rehash it the next day too. Decades after being that
little boy watching Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and listening
to Wonderfulness, I was standing in Bill Cosby's shoes, fully aware
of the importance of amusing children.
It's so essential to me that my New Year's resolution is to make
the kids laugh every day.
For all the pride I have in helping to provide food, shelter, education,
and a few lessons on character, nothing beats the bond of laughter.
When I make my kids giggle, it lets them know that the big, older
guy who forces them to eat their dinner and do their homework can
connect with them on a basic level of instantaneous bliss.
Now, I know there will be days I don't want to be funny, but it's
an ambition worth pursuing, because it makes me as happy as they
are. The task is made easier by all the resources at my disposal.
Taking my subject matter from their conversations, any crazy noises,
character voices, mentions of the word "poopie," or imitations
of babies gets them rolling in the aisles. If I don't have the energy
to tickle the kids, tell jokes, or otherwise be silly on my own,
I can sit with them and listen to old Cosby albums (now available
for download at various online stores). I can watch comedy movies,
from old (Danny Kaye's The Court Jester) to new (the unbeatable
Shrek flicks). I can read hilarious books (Peggy Rathmann's visual
comedy is brilliant in Officer Buckle and Gloria).
This is not to mention that my kids are pretty darn funny on their
own. All I have to do is play the straight man and I'm golden. Benjamin
has a genius belly laugh, but Jacob is the real comic in the family.
He has the facial expressions of a Jim Carrey and the rakish charm
of a Cary Grant. The other night, he placed his ragged blanket on
my head and told me, "Daddy, you look like a beauuutiful girl."
Yes, I will endure any and all jokes at my expense as long as my
children giggle. I may not always be able to inspire their chuckles,
but I have no intention of getting off the laugh track.
2005 Gregory Keer. All rights reserved.
Keer is a syndicated columnist, teacher, and on-air expert on fatherhood.
His Family Man column appears in publications across the country,
including L.A. Parent, Boston Parents' Paper, Bay Area Parent, Long
Island Parenting News, Metro Augusta Parent, and Sydney's Child
in Australia. Keer's concurrent column, Today's Family Man, is found
at his online fatherhood magazine, www.FamilyManOnline.com.
He also writes for Parenting magazine and the Parents' Choice Foundation
as well as such sites as Parenthood.com, Pregnancy.org, FamilyResource.org,
GardenAndHearth.com, SheKnows.com, KeepKidsHealthy.com, and CanadianParents.com.
On television, Keer has appeared on morning shows and cable specials.
He is the father of three sons and husband to Wendy, a professor