Humor in Hardship

Often times we see people laughing and making light of a tragic situation. If you look at social media right now you’ll see meme after meme and videos, parody, sarcasm, etc. all expressing our current fears and frustrations with Covid 19. While some find it offensive, I think humor is frequently the easiest way to process emotional trauma. As a parent, there have been many times I NEED to find the humor in certain circumstances. Sometimes laughing is the only thing that keeps me from crying. Sometimes laughter is what saves my sanity. Finding the humor in difficult circumstances has prompted me to share a story.

Several years ago, when Matt was in high school and still living with David and I, one of the issues we had with him was complete obstinance and disregard for rules and authority. I think that is common among teens and VERY common among drug using teens but this kid… he took the cake. If you told him the sky was blue, he’d tell you it was green.

To understand how peer pressure and drug use changed Matt, I think you would have to know how his brain worked before the drugs. For as long as I’ve known him, Matt has always been insecure. He wanted friends and was silly and fun and good at keeping those around him laughing. When puberty hit, he started feeling a need to be “cool” to fit in with the other guys. Suddenly the physical comedy that used to win him the adoration of others was not who he wanted to be. Instead he wanted to be the guy that was willing to do all the things the other kids just talked about. For example, When he was about 13 years old, one day he literally told me that “if your friends tell you that you should do something, you pretty much have to do it… even if it means shooting bottle rockets out of your butt.” He wanted to be the guy who would push the envelope, disregard all danger, and leave everyone around him slack jawed and awestruck.

The particular story I’m thinking of took place on Sarah’s birthday. The kids had friends at the house, hanging out and having fun. I heard one of the girls was crying so I went to check on her and find out what was going on. At that point Matt looked at me and said “You need to mind your own business”. Anyone reading this who has ever been a parent can imagine how the night proceeded from there. The party broke up, parents were called to pick up their kids, Sarah was mad at Matt for ruining what had been a great day before this whole incident, and David and I told Matt there would be no Wifi for the reminder of the evening. For any rationally thinking kid, they would have accepted their punishment and moved on. Not Matt.

Remember to keep looking for the humor in this story because, as a parent, I laugh every time I think about it and that laughter is the only thing that makes it better.

For Matt, being reprimanded when he was trying to look cool in front of his friends was apparently some giant faux pas on our part. He did not take it well. I walked into our bedroom to witness this….

David “What are you doing in my room?”

Matt “Plugging in the WiFi”

David “No you’re not. Get out of my room.”

That’s when Matt, a Skinny teenage boy who is slightly taller than his Dad but less stout, stepped up in his dad’s face, pointed a finger into David’s chest and said “You owe me a mother f*#@ing apology”. This is the point in the story where Matt’s short little life should have been flashing before his eyes. David, a career Marine, had Matt in a headlock in a fraction of a second. Imagine Matt, bent over at the waist, head locked in David’s elbow, legs flailing, arms punching, still refusing to submit to authority. David told Matt he’d let him go when he calmed down but as soon as David let go, Matt was back to punching.

Put yourself in our shoes for a moment. What do you do with a physically violent teenage boy who flat out refuses to submit to parental authority? David told me “Call 911 before I kill the boy”. I hesitated, I didn’t want to do it but, with no other choice, I did. At that point, Matt came after me. He didn’t hit me or anything but he wrestled the phone away from me and hung it up. Wanna know how to make the police come quickly to your house? Hang up in the middle of a 911 call. This is where the story really gets funny if you have to ability to just visualize this situation.

After hanging up on emergency dispatcher, Matt locked himself in his room, took a knife and cut the screen from his window (apparently he didn’t know you could just push the screen right out) and jumped through the window into the front yard right as police vehicles were pulling up in front of the house. The officers tell him to freeze. He does, for a fraction of a second, but then decides his best option is to make a run for it. He makes it about 2 steps before cops are tackling him in the front yard. He’s got a knife on him (remember, he used it to cut the window screen) and a testosterone and drug induced rage that makes him look like a rabid animal. He gets put into the back of a police car while they start adding up multiple charges and trying to figure out what to do with him. Sarah is walking down the road crying, furious with him for ruining her birthday. David and I are at a complete loss on how to deescalate this whole disaster… All while the neighbors are standing outside in their pajamas watching this live episode of Cops unfold in this quiet, suburban neighborhood.

This is why I have to laugh. I picture Matt, with this wild, trapped animal look on his face, being tackled by cops in the front yard while little old ladies in their bath robes stand mouths agape because they’ve never had to deal with this level of unruliness in their own homes and find this more exciting than watching TV all because Matt couldn’t handle a few hours without WiFi.

This type of behavior is what drug use leads to and it’s truly tragic. That said, I love that crazy boy so much and, to be able to forgive this and move forward, I laugh.

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