Years ago, my mother told me that she liked having a dog because dogs are amusing and entertaining. I always suspected she felt the same way about me and my siblings.
Case in point: my dad was a medical intern when I was a toddler, meaning that he worked very long hours, often through the night. I figured out that all it took to get kind people to ooze sympathy — and give me candy — was to make a sad face and tell the truth: "My daddy's in the hospital and he won't be coming home tonight." They clearly assumed my father was critically ill — and my mum was expending too much effort trying not to laugh to correct them.
When my son started to talk, I had high hopes for his entertainment value, too. And I wasn't disappointed. It started early, with his very first word: "Da." He liked to babble "da," or "dada" and it really seemed to mean everything and nothing. Sure, it might sometimes refer to his daddy. But it could also be me, or his teddy bear, or even a cat who wandered into our garden.
At the Supermarket. One day at the supermarket, I was rolling him in the trolley down an aisle when he spotted a man walking towards us. "DADA!" he hollered, in a voice louder than I knew he was capable of. The guy walking towards us didn't look anything like my husband. My husband is small and wiry, with bright blue eyes and curly brown hair. This guy was big and tall and African-American. I could see the poor guy blushing from about six feet away. I was blushing furiously, too. But I was also laughing hysterically, and soon he was as well.
During a Nappy Change. One day a year or so later, when my son needed a nappy change, my husband scooped him up, saying jovially, "Change your nappy, change your life!" My son looked very alarmed at this, and said in a quivery voice, "No change life. Just change nappy!" This time it was my husband who laughed hysterically.
With Strangers. There's not enough time to list all the things my son has said over the years that have made me laugh until I cried. There was the time he licked my arm and told me I tasted delicious, "like raspberries." The time a stranger asked him if he could name a word starting with the letter "p." I know the nice lady was expecting to hear "pot" or "pet" or "puppy," but my dinosaur-obsessed toddler answered, "pterodactyl." The look on her face was priceless.
These days, I see the funny things my friends' kids say plastered all over social media, and they make me laugh, too. Probably none of these children will ever grow up to be professional comedians. But for now they're keeping their parents — and their parents' friends and relatives — happily amused.
Beth Weinhouse is an award-winning journalist who specializes in writing about parenting issues and women's health. She's been an editor at Ladies' Home Journal and Parenting magazines, and her work has appeared in dozens of consumer magazines and websites.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.