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September 17, 2009

This Wonderful Life: What’s so funny? My kids, I hope

In my experience as a three-time parent, there is something absolutely, spiritually magical about the first time your child cracks a joke.

I’m not talking about knock-knocks that don’t make sense, so you laugh at their absurdity.

(Knock-knock. Who’s there? Uhhh, Poopy? Poopy, who? Poopy Pants!)

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the poopy pants-style humor that is so popular with small children. I just hope that, unlike Adam Sandler, my children will outgrow that particular phase of humor. That they might introduce subtleties of irony, word play, satire and even sarcasm.

Already I see good signs from Bee, who is about 6 1/2.

Last night, after a delicious meal of fried eggplant, angel hair pasta and red sauce with a side of tomato and mozzarella salad, Bee was leaning against the island in the kitchen while I cleaned up.

``Would pasta and pasta make a fire?’’ she asked. I turned to see her rubbing two tiny lengths of dried capellini together like a Boy Scout.

``No,’’ I told her. ``Two pieces of pasta will not make a fire.’’

``Or maybe they’ll make a pasta fire,’’ she said. ``With pasta sparks and pasta flames that explode everywhere. With pasta.’’ Her face melted into a wry, satisfied smile. My motherly heart skipped a glorious little beat.

Humor is important in my world.

Where other parents hope their children are successful, I hope my children are funny.

I mean, I know they can live fully productive and satisfying lives without being funny. And I would love them just as much if they weren’t funny. I know, I know. Really, it would be fine.

When they were babies, I naturally thought about all the other things that parents think about. Their health and happiness were my first hopes for them, of course. And I thought about all the firsts that we could experience together. Their first days at school. Their first favorite songs. Their first lost teeth and first bike rides.

But I also thought about the first time we would be able to watch ``Raising Arizona’’ together and incorporate lines from the film into our everyday vernacular. (``Only if you think round is funny.’’)

And as every mother imagines the things she’ll pass down to her daughters — a strand of pearls, a silver tea set — I imagined the day when I would be able to give my girls their very own ``Dorothy Parker Reader,’’ to cherish as I have cherished mine.

So yes, I worried that they might not appreciate the art and importance of humor the way I do. I worried that they might look upon it the way I looked upon my own mother’s deep appreciation for Barbra Streisand. I know Babs is popular, but she just doesn’t do anything for me.

Fortunately, it looks like I needn’t have worried. My son and I have shared ``Raising Arizona’’ many times. His sense of humor is strong and healthy.

Posey’s sense of humor is undeniable, even at 3. She is our little clown, with impeccable comic timing and great agility for broad, physical humor. No one does a pratfall as well as Posey.

But Bee can be so serious. She likes to laugh, and she does laugh. But I have been waiting to see how her humor will evolve as she grows older.

So it was like a great gift, this tiny, absurd bit of humor. A pasta fire. And she knew it, too, smiling at me with that wry smile of hers.

I can’t wait to see what she thinks of Dorothy Parker. Elizabeth Trever Buchinger thinks round is funny. You can connect with her at www.moremindfulfamily.