I remember AJ's first joke. He was two-and-a-half and whenever I came home from work, he would run up to me with his hands out wanting the change in my pockets. Shiny things, you know. This particular evening, his Mother did the same. I gave AJ the coins, 38 cents or so, and told him to share with his Mommy. He looked down at his treasure-filled hand for a moment, selected a single penny, and pressed it to his mother's palm. The mischievous glint in his eye left no doubt he knew exactly what he was doing.
And, as good parents, we provided the expected response. Mock outrage from her; unbridled laughter from me.
He's been funny ever since. Clever, at times. At others, his innocent remarks in the midst of serious discussions force me to turn away and bite my fist, lest laughter ruin the gravity of the moment. He knows how to play to his particular audience, too. With his peers, he more liberally sprinkles his keen insights with bodily function humor. He's turned into the class clown, a fact apparent from discussions with his teachers and classmates. He's the guy that breaks up the room with obvious histrionics (a favorite is to slam his head and hands down on his desk to indicate chagrin), the kid who has a comment for everything, who finds a line or an act the others respond to and uses them repeatedly.
Last weekend, driving home from my soccer game, we saw a homeless man holding a sign at an intersection.
"Daddy," he said. "Should we help that man?"
I launched into a brief sermon. Hey! A teaching moment! "We should always help people when we are able," I said. "It's called 'charity.'
"There are lots of homeless people," I continued. "Instead of giving change to all of them, it's better to give money to an organization, so you can be sure the money is used for food and shelter and clothing and so you can get a tax deduction."
He mulled that over for a bit. Then said, "I was thinking more of something like letting him come to live with us for a few days."
I shudder at the number of stray dogs this boy will bring home.
"That's not really an option, AJ. We can't just take strangers home with us. He might be mentally ill, he might be sick..."
"Like have a disease?"
"Something like a bladder infection?"
I muffled my delight, continued my speech on how we have to be careful around people we don't know, keeping the lesson on point. A few minutes later,
"If that homeless man doesn't have any money, where did he get the marker to make his sign?"
It's a few days later and he's gone to the "bladder infection" line a half-dozen more times (clearly, I suck at muffling my delight). I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm concerned about this attention-grabbing (needing?) behavior. Sure, we all know the stereotypes, the sad clown, the comedian who uses humor to mask deep-seated pain, who longs to be noticed and accepted. I'm not ready to go there yet.
Though I remind him every morning to conduct himself appropriately in class.
AJ plays happily and patiently with his 5-year-old cousin, even though she's a little girl in every sense. He'll deal with an hour of playing with dolls and she'll reciprocate with some baseball or running around in the backyard. Except all that outdoor rough-housing inevitably causes her injury, real or imagined. Which means band-aids. Lots of band-aids. She was eventually sporting eight.
Sometime later, the two of them were jockeying for water at the refrigerator and she banged her knee on the door. "Ow!" she said.
AJ shot back, "Would you like another band-aid, Princess?"
Eight years old is a little young for snark, isn't it? Maybe it's my fault, since I taught him sarcasm years ago. What say you Offsprung Nation? How do we regulate humor? I mean, it's not like I want him to stop making me laugh.