“Could you hand me that wrench? It should fix it,” I tell anybody who happens to still care what I think at this point… Of course, “it” being whatever struggle I’m currently having as a parent and the “wrench” being whatever tool I currently have tucked into the waistband of my “pretend to know-it-all, fix-it-all” parenting strategy.

I have tools for everything in parenting, it seems. My own personal tools have come to me from parenting classes, books, seminars, and mostly my own experiences. My tools have filled my fatherhood toolbox with everything I need and will need for every occasion. When a screw is loose, I grab my parental screwdriver. When something needs to be pounded in, I grab my parental hammer. When I forget the combination to my kid’s brain… I grab my parental hacksaw.

It seems like parenting should be as ridiculously simple as always grabbing the right tool for the right need, both for us and (if I’m being honest) when I look at other people’s kids, too. Jim Bob over there is having problem with his kid doing x-and-such. Hey, no problem; All he needs to do is… let’s see… here’s the answer. Right here in this book. Sally Sue is struggling because her kid is doing y-and-such. Simple as pie; all she needs to do is… let’s see… the answer is right here in my notes from that parenting course I took so long ago. And Chuck-Cho’s problem with his kid? Well, duh… My kid had the same problem and I used Dan’s magical kid-fixing-tonic to make that problem go away. Guaranteed it’ll work for Chuck-Cho as well.

Don’t ask me where I came up with the name Chuck-Cho. I like it, though. I’ll probably use it again. I may even name my next dog Chuck-Cho. It’s got a good ring to it.

<sigh> I won’t lie. My toolbox gets pretty heavy sometimes. There are so many tools in it that sometimes I don’t even know what any of them are good for. And, even worse… sometimes none of them seem to even work at all.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past twelve years, it’s that my kid is going to adapt. He’s going to recognize whatever tool it is I’m pulling out of my dad-toolbox and he’s going to inadvertently find a way to render that tool worthless to me. I’ll show up with a Phillip’s screwdriver, he’ll suddenly have a slot-edge problem. I’ll show up with a socket wrench, he’ll bury those bolts and nuts so deep that what I have can’t reach them. And, usually that’s all okay because I have some other tool in my toolbox that fits the new need.

But… every once in a while… the kid does something out of the blue, or hits me from behind, or presents a challenge so difficult that nothing I usually use works. I begin pulling every other tool out one at a time. He sits back and giggles inside (I know he is), humored by my inability to manipulate this ever evolving master of manipulation (hey, all kids are). Before long, the ground around me is strewn with tools I forgot I even had, none of which did the trick. My toolbox is almost empty. I look around at the clumps of hair I’ve pulled out trying to deal with whatever I’m dealing with. And then… I remember.

I look in the bottom of the toolbox. And sure enough, it’s in there. It’s always in there. The last tool I have left…

Laughter.

I just look at Noah in these moments, and I start to… laugh. I laugh to myself. I laugh to him. I laugh to the world. I laugh because I don’t have all the answers. I laugh because I don’t have the energy to keep dealing with whatever is going on. I laugh because I feel mentally depleted. I laugh because, well… nothing else makes sense except to laugh.

The laughter tool.

Guess what. No knowledge necessary to use it. No education needed. No reasoning. No logic. I don’t need to have anything but a problem in need of a solution.

Turns out every parent has this tool in their toolbox, and for some reason it’s often the last tool a lot of us pull out. I know it is for me. All the freaking time.

But here’s the irony of it all. Any time I finally do pull it out, it works. And it doesn’t just work. It works well, and it works just about every time.

To laugh about that which I can’t fix… To laugh about that which I can’t control… Well, doing so has a real purpose and the purpose is simple. Parents need to be reminded, and I as a parent definitely need to be reminded, that the vast majority of the time, whatever problem we think we see and whatever problem we think we can’t handle… simply is what it is. Cliché, I know. Deal with it.

Laughter is the tool that helps me let go of every other tool that I’ve been trying to use but isn’t working, and it let’s me simply be while life is being what it is being.

Laughter is the tool that reminds me that my child isn’t a computer program and he isn’t a robot. It reminds me that there aren’t one-size-fits-all, one-method-fits-all, and one-quick-fix-fits-all approaches to parenting.

It’s the tool that lets my kid be human with me again.

It’s the tool that makes him fragile and real again.

It’s the tool that reminds both us of exactly who I am and who he is.

Perhaps best of all, it’s the tool that gets my kid laughing right along with me. That’s important because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all of this parenting silliness, it’s that if my kid is laughing, he’s usually going to be on my team instead of watching me parent from the sidelines.

Laughter is the multi-purpose tool that will fix almost every problem, almost every time. I just wish I would remember to make it the first tool I grab when problems come up because… Damn… It gets tiring trying every other tool in the toolbox first. I get parenting blisters when I do that. And blisters suck.

Dan Pearce | Dan Pearce Was Here

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