When laughing is better than crying

by Rebecca on September 1, 2015

Our family is in a frustrating place, with employment that provides an unsteady income and an unpredictable schedule. I never know when my husband will be home. The word “never” is not an exaggeration; I can’t even tell you what he’ll be doing an hour from now, and I certainly can’t plan something for tomorrow, the next day, or a week from now. For a while, we were operating on this schedule from hell with only one vehicle. We’ve done the one-car thing before, but it was only a minor inconvenience because we had a structured schedule to work around. Sharing a car when you don’t know when one partner will need it from minute to minute is next to impossible. I was a trapped rat in the maze of my house of needy children and outside responsibilities I couldn’t attend to.

It was during this time of house arrest that we had a dinner (without Dad… again. But maybe he would show up in an hour? Or maybe not until all heads were in beds? Nobody knew.) that just begged to be documented. The kids were being disgusting with their food, they couldn’t stay on task, and it was a chaotic start to a frustrating evening alone. But when I sat back and laughed instead of cried, I really couldn’t believe how funny the chaos was. I pulled out my phone and began taking notes as Emma (4) methodically sucked up noodle after noodle, never breaking her stream of conversation. Her discussion was so steady, it was as if the noodle sucking wasn’t even taking place.

“Lydia, when you laugh, watermelon juice comes out of your mouth,” she said on one noodle-suck.

Everyone burst into giggles.

Rex (1) was passing gas in his high chair, while detailing each occurrence to the group with a “Toot? Toot?” Each time he said “toot,” he looked around the table for confirmation. Once we agreed to his accuracy of the tooting situation, he smiled and sat a little taller, regal in his high chair and oh-so-pleased with himself.

Then both girls began one-upping each other in a grand show of who had the best negotiating skills for getting out of eating dinner. They started inspecting their noodles, noticing tiny pieces of shallots, and suddenly they were crime scene investigators with the sharpest eyes for the offending shallots. I wondered, not for the first time, why they don’t possess that investigative eye when I send them to find something I need. Whatevs.

Mid negotiating, they both suddenly started singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb;” only they replaced “lamb” with “boa constrictor.” It was like a Disney movie, where the animated characters break into choreographed dance and song — and you wonder how they all knew the words to something you’ve never heard before.

Suddenly, the girls sensed a cue I couldn’t see, and there was a hurried frenzy to find and eat all white watermelon seeds (NOT the watermelon). Their crime scene investigation skills came into play again as they inspected every piece of watermelon. I wondered again why shallots were so offensive.

Rex, meanwhile, had no qualms with shallots, and was shoveling noodles into his mouth, staining his cheeks and hands orange with a fervor you would see only from the winner of a hot dog eating contest.

I didn’t know it, but that very moment was an excellent time to exercise. After sighing over the mess of Rex, I glanced back at Emma, who was now out of her seat, doing lunges and stretches, grunting at the extreme effort while detailing to us the merits of exercise.

As I laughed at Emma and then told her to get back in her seat, Lydia (7) stole the floor by whistling as loudly as she could. Emma couldn’t let her have all the attention, so she also began “whistling,” which was really just humming. Lydia wasn’t happy at this upstaging, so she decided to bring attention back to herself by quashing Emma’s efforts. “Emma, you’re faking.”

Emma was too happy to take the bait, instead deciding to keep the mood lighthearted. “Your mouth tooted,” Emma told Lydia as Lydia continued whistling. “I didn’t know it had a bum.”

We all burst into laughter, which only fueled our little comedian. “Grandma and Grandpa both have “G” in their names,” she suddenly observed, her stream of consciousness impossible for any sane person to follow. “I guess they’re the “G” twins. They “G” at the same time.”

And scene. Drop the mic. Peace out.


P.S. We still are looking for a better job for my husband. If you know anything in management or sales, please email me at rebecca.brownwright@gmail.com. We’ve had a terrible year in the job department. Two layoffs, unemployment, and more. Honestly, I look back at the last 10 months, and am shocked at the things that have happened to us. I could write a book about it (One story would be called, “You’re All Mother Effers Who are Ruining My Life… and Other Quaint Comments Shouted by My Husband’s Boss”).

One thing a lot of people don’t realize until they’re in an unemployment or underemployment situation is how very urgent the need is to get a new job. Another thing a lot of people don’t realize is that contacts within a company are more valuable than just knowing about some place that’s hiring. Getting an introduction to a hiring manager can be the key that seals the deal.

So please think of us, and if you know anything… hurry and help us make those connections. Thank you!


I was surprised to find myself blinking back tears as I drove past the school of my oldest child. The reason I was surprised? It was a whole year before she would even be attending kindergarten at that school. Yet every time I drove past her future school, I was filled with grief and nostalgia for her swift-moving childhood.

Of course, I wasn’t even a teeny bit shocked when her actual first day of kindergarten left me panicked and sad. We quickly found ourselves in a kindergarten routine, however, and I loved sending her off each day to learn and enjoy life.


As 1st grade began to be a spot on the horizon, I felt that panicked and sad feeling again. All day school? Could she really handle it? Of course she could. But could I? When I look back, I sometimes think 1st grade was a harder transition than kindergarten. It was a grand entrance into the big world of big kids. As much as I want to be past this exhausting stage of little needy children, I also absolutely don’t want them growing even a second older.

But just like kindergarten, it didn’t take long until we were in a normal 1st grade routine, sans tears from her mama (most days).

Lydia, first day of 1st grade, 2014 8

So as 2nd grade neared this year, I patted myself on the back for my composure. I wasn’t sad; I was eager to see her return to her friends and routine because I know how good it is for her. Plus, I decided I’m ok with the growing older thing now, ok(?), so thanks for asking.

And then the principal sent a recorded message to all the parents two days before school with instructions for the first day. “Every teacher will be outside wearing the school colors,” the message said. “Tell your children that if they’re lost, they can look for a teacher wearing that color.”


“But don’t worry!” she continued. “The teachers are going to be looking specifically for kids who may be too shy to ask for help.”

Too shy to ask for help? All I could think of was my sweet little 2nd grader (Ohmygosh, she’s a 2nd grader! Who is the jerk who came and pulled out the rug from under me?) standing in a crowded sea of bigger kids, feeling lost and alone. And I was suddenly supremely sad at sending my sweet child into the world again.

IMG_0587 (1)

The message ended, and my husband looked at me. Seeing my face fall, he wrapped me in a hug, and I felt my shoulders shudder as the sobs started. He had no idea what was going on, and as I choked out an explanation for my tears I felt so ridiculous for crying that I began to cry-laugh. The kids were dancing around us, chattering a mile a minute until they noticed my tears mixed with laughter. “Those aren’t even real tears. She’s faking,” 4-year-old Emma announced.

“No, they’re real,” I said and grabbed my 2nd grader in a hug where I told her how much I was going to miss her. She grinned at the attention.

When her first day of school came two days later, my husband was out of town, and so I was all business as I prepared everyone to head out the door on time by myself. No tears from me. I was proud.



As we neared her line, I grabbed Lydia’s hand and was glad she didn’t resist. But soon, we were walking past bigger kids, and I was worried she might be embarrassed to be seen holding her mom’s hand. So I pretended I had an itch on my forehead, and then casually let my hand dangle back near hers. In less than a second, her hand found mine again — and that’s when I knew I wasn’t getting through the morning without tears.

The principal had all the parents line up so the kids could parade around the school before entering on a red carpet. It was adorable, and I was happy for the chance to wave goodbye in a festive environment.


As she filed past me with the cutest grin on her face, a mom next to me wiped tears from her eyes. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “I can’t believe I’m crying again. 2nd and 5th grade. You’d think I’d be over this by now!”

I wiped my own tears and nodded.

It’s always comforting to see a more seasoned parent struggling with the same things I am. I don’t know if I’ll always be so devastatingly sad each school year, but for now, no matter how many times I’ve been around the block, I still mourn these milestones. Next up next year? 3rd grade for my oldest, and kindergarten for my middle child. I’ll stock up on tissues now, thanks.

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