I think I have a fairly reasonable sense of humor, and my husband too. We laugh at jokes that are funny, stories that are pithy and irreverent, anecdotes that are relatable. This is why I’m surprised that the product of our union, our 3 beautiful boys, have a sense of humor that can best be described as slapstick and mostly involves the bathroom. I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 things that my kids think are absolutely hysterical that I simply don’t get.
1) The human digestive system. My twins’ fascination with this started around age 2, when they really got into potty training. The folks at Children’s Television Workship did us no favors by having a segment in Elmo’s Potty Time in which kids yell out their nicknames for digestive waste. This put my twins into hysterics. It was like Christmas come early. “Again! Again! Again!” they would squeal and then walk around the house later that day shouting “BM!” “Stool!” “Dung!” at top volume. “Why is this necessary?” my husband asked me. “It’s helping them get potty trained,” I gently explained. To be honest, I’m not really sure whether the video helped or not. What I do know is that, years later, my kids still find the digestive system and all associated gases, bodily fluids and sounds HILARIOUS.
2) The word “booty”. Why is this funny? When Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass started airing on the radio, my kids would cheer and whoop-whoop. “It’s about a woman’s self-acceptance and learning to love her body,” I’d explain, while they completely ignored me and chanted, “Booty booty! Booty booty!” (And yes while it may seem like poor parenting to allow them to listen to the radio on occasion, please refer to point 3 below.)
3) Silly children’s songs that anthropomorphize animals. My kids find many of these songs hilarious, particularly one in which a monkey is acting like a human and doing crazy things. To be honest, I didn’t mind so much the first time I heard the song. But the 347th time around, I knew exactly how it was going to go. I knew exactly what the monkey was going to do. And so did they!! “Why is this song still funny?” I asked my kids, and they responded that animals acting like people can be uproariously funny, especially against the backdrop of a 6-chord melody that repeated itself over and over.
I tried to deal with this by reading them Animal Farm by George Orwell. I didn’t exactly expect my 7-year olds to draw parallels with the Russian Revolution, but I figured they might find it clever since the farm animals acted like humans. Instead, my kids’ eyes turned glassy, their bodies went stiff and they fell asleep.
4) Really terrible knock-knock jokes. Knock-knock. Who’s there? Kimona. Kimona who? Kimona my house. Are you laughing right now or do you want to break the screen? “That was funny?” I asked my kids, who were holding onto their sides, trembling and asking me for another one. Okay. Knock-knock. Who’s there? Needle. Needle who? Needle little lunch. I could go on and on, thanks to a comprehensive Knock-Knock Jokes anthology that some sadist bought my kids for their birthday. This is a book that my kids love to read again and again, that puts them into hysterics, that somehow finds its way out of our recycle bin every time it accidentally winds up there. “Mom, look what almost got thrown out,” one twin will say to me as he fishes the book out of the receptacle. “Oooh, good thing you rescued it,” I respond, while cursing under my breath. “Now read me the one about the orange.”
5) Children’s books where the protagonist misbehaves and breaks his furniture. There are more of these than you might think, as I discovered recently. Just this week, we read two in which the main character broke his bed – one from excessive jumping and one from inviting all of the animals in the house to sleep with him. My kids found both of these books, side-splittingly, knee-slapping funny – particularly one scene when the bed goes through the floor. “You think this is funny?” I say to them. “Beds are expensive! Floors are expensive! More money than you’ve got in your allowance for the rest of your lives!” But they don’t want to hear about the consequences. They just want a simple tale in which the hero is allowed to misbehave, make a terrible mess, break his house and not have anything bad come of it. And while I can see that this type of escapist literature is appealing to them, I’m too concerned with insurance estimates, the cost of laminate flooring, and visits to crowded IKEA to get the humor.
Our 3 kids are elementary and pre-school age – still plenty of room to grow and to have their sense of humors evolve. I’m sure there’s a day in the future when I’ll tell a joke and one of my kids will shake his head, accuse me of being juvenile and my humor derivative. In the meantime, I’ll continue to ask them why they’re laughing at things I don’t get…and maybe come a little bit closer to solving the mystery.