Every Friday my syndicated column appears in several newspapers. Here’s this week’s, on why baby laughter is a sure-fire cure for melancholy!
Spring is supposed to be a happy time, with robins and geese returning and the sun melting away the black residue of what was once a white blanket of snow. But spring also brings mud and damp and mold and viruses and rain, so it’s the perfect breeding ground for grumpiness, too.
If you’re sniffling, and you’re damp, and you just need a pick-me-up, I have the perfect cure. Go to YouTube and type in “Baby laugh”. Then watch the videos that pop up, starting with the ones with the highest views. Perhaps you’re a stoic soul, and you’ll last through the first one without cracking a smile. You may even make it through the second. But soon you’ll be laughing, too. You won’t be able to help it.
One baby laughs every time Daddy makes a funny noise. One laughs at tearing paper. One laughs at Dad trying to play golf on the Wii, which admittedly for many would be funny, especially if you can never make that final putt. And when babies laugh their whole bodies shake. The arms go up and down, the legs kick, and frequently the whole baby falls over. They don’t do anything half-heartedly.
Why are baby laughs so cute?
I think it has to do with the fact that to a baby, nothing ever gets old. Dad hitting the Wii ball is as funny the 149th time as it was the first.
We don’t find things funny after a while. Babies find delight in anything, even if they’ve seen it a million times before. They don’t get bored. They just delight in life.
On the other hand, we mature ones get self-conscious when we laugh, which is probably why our laughter doesn’t involve limbs or extraneous body parts.
When’s the last time you laughed so hard you actually fell down? Granted, my children fall out of chairs from laughing quite frequently, but they’re children, and I’m still not positive they’re not suffering from some sort of nervous disorder. Most of us may chuckle occasionally, but letting out a true belly laugh is rare.
I think it’s because we second guess ourselves so much. What if I laugh, and I have something on my teeth? What if I snort? What if I laugh and no one else thinks it’s funny? Then they’ll be laughing at me! It’s better to keep quiet.
Such thoughts never occur to a baby. They laugh whether they look stupid or not. They don’t care if they have food on their teeth (or tooth), or coming out of their ears, or in their hair. They don’t care if no one else is laughing. They just laugh if they want to. They’re free.
We stop being free sometime around the age when we discover that the world is bigger than Mommy and Daddy who love me no matter what I do. When we realize that other people might not like us, or might not like something we do, then we start judging themselves. We hold ourselves back, or we do things simply because of the effect it will have on those around us. We’ve lost that innocence.
The only time I have ever been that carefree as an adult was when I was with my own babies.
Not only do babies not care what people think of them, they also don’t judge you. You can look horrible, with food stuck in your teeth and hair going every which way. You can snort or fart or burp out loud by accident and babies won’t reject you. They’ll just laugh and try to grab your glasses or pull your earrings. You hug them, and they hug you back. And then they sigh, perfectly contented, because they know they’re safe.
So if you’re feeling alone, or sad, or mad, or hopeless, watch a baby.
Maybe, just maybe, that baby will remind you of certain truths that we adults seem to have forgotten. Laughter is good for the soul. We shouldn’t let other people determine our emotions. It’s good to reach out to those who love you. And it doesn’t matter what other people think; you can still find joy in strange body noises. Have a happy spring!