Ask the question and then it's really easy: listen.

What might you learn if you ask open-ended questions?

Do your kids hear you truly, heartily laugh?

If this is Day 1, I can’t wait to see what Day 30 brings.

He waved his wand again, slashing it in front of him, “Boom! In-N-Out!” and he motioned that there was a box in front of him. Later I leaned that he meant it was an actual In-N-Out restaurant. I laughed again, but not as loud as when he first said it.

A funny thing happened on the walk home from school yesterday. My son asked me to repeat what I had just did, but I didn’t know what I had just done.

“No, do what you did the first time,” he pleaded.

“What did I do the first time?” I asked.

“You went,” and he gave a deep, Santa Claus laugh, even holding his belly and leaning his head back, “Ha ha, hoo hoo, ha ha ha!” as deep as a thin, 11-year old can while walking down a sidewalk after school.

So I did my best hearty laugh, but I’m sure it wasn’t as authentic as that first one. He noticed.

“No, like the first time,” he said again. “Why did you laugh so hard the first time?”

I thought about it for just a second, but I knew the answer, the truth. “Because I thought it was really, really funny,” I said.

“You did? You really did?”

[Echt waar?” in Dutch, which has a bit more meaning, maybe something like, “Genuinely true?”] He really wanted to know that I thought it was truly, deeply, and honestly funny.

I looked at him, sensing his joy, and seeing the look of a deep pride and said, “I thought it was hilarious. I pictured the cheeseburger appearing late at night in the attic of the castle and you and your brother, Dec and Den all sitting around and their eyes go wide with wonder at what you did and they’re happy and excited and starving and thrilled that this is your magic power, that you brought this to them. I could see them saying, ‘Awesome! I’m hungry! Can you get some fries, too?'”

He smiled. He glowed. He beamed.

Please note, dear reader, my 11-year old “too cool for school” son doesn’t beam all that often. I had brought both boys a glazed donut because I had just walked from the store and they love them. They were thrilled, especially when I had them guess what was in the bag, but it looked exactly like a poop bag from Pepper. Lu’s first response was, “Your surprise is Pepper’s poop?” Then they guessed donut. A donut got a good smile, but this reaction now was a beaming force of energetic light radiating from somewhere behind his face. I don’t get them very often from him so I also notice when they come around.

We were almost home and Li kept on waving his wand, even tugging on my arm to show me that he made a milkshake appear, “Boom! In-N-Out!” he repeated. It was funny each time, but less so each time, naturally. Lu made his magic power be something like food falling from the sky, but Li correctly reminded him that they couldn’t have the same magical power and Lu went back to the wizardly drawing board and Li continued to make fast food appear.

Do you laugh with your children? But no, really, really, ‘echt waar’ laugh with them?

But a thought crossed my mind as subtly as a chicken crossing the road in heavy traffic, Do I not laugh at my son’s jokes? Do I not laugh with him? Do I not laugh a hearty, full-bellied Santa Claus, head-tilted-back deep roar of a laugh on a regular basis? If he noticed so quickly and obviously and wanted more like a dog wants another treat, there must be something missing. He must yearn for it, need it, require it for the energy of his soul.

I was just gathering background data for our upcoming book. I just wanted to know if my son would like to fly or turn into a wizard or go invisible. But in a matter of minutes I felt a deep connection to my son that I hadn’t had in a while. Then a disconnect. Then another connection. All we’re doing is starting a project together. We’re just going to write a story about four boys in a castle. We’re on Day 1 of research. We’re on Minute #7 of talking about the project while not talking about the project. I asked them one single question and I learn that I don’t laugh a deep, hearty, ‘echt waar’ laugh with my boys–or at least often enough. I could have gone to 14 years of therapy to learn that. But I just asked my boy what magical power he wished he had. He gave his intuitive answer and it was a rocket of an answer and I responded to his purity of thought with a purity of laughter.

Holy crap. We’re just getting started. What am I getting myself into? If this is Day 1, what is Day 30 going to be like? I might get to know my children or better yet, I might get to know aspects of my children I never knew existed–and either did they.

  • Possible: laugh
  • Impossible: leave it in
  • Repossible: let it out and let it be heard
What's that creeping out of the fence? Something so powerful it just had to get out.

What’s that creeping out of the fence? Something so powerful it just had to get out.

By |2017-05-24T13:27:40+00:00February 25th, 2015|Parenting, Perspective, Writing|0 Comments

About the Author:

Bradley Charbonneau was sitting with his 8-year old reading a bad children's book when he said to his son, "We can do better than this ... and you're going to help me." Then they did it. He hasn't stopped since.

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