Year 3, Day 202

Exactly when and how do we develop our senses of humor? I had hoped that parenting would have shed some light on this for me, but its frankly left me more befuddled than I was before.

I can understand how children develop an understanding of what they think is funny. It all starts with the silly games we play with infants (peek-a-boo, for instance) and rapidly graduates (evidently) to scatological humor and exaggerated voices and movements. What I’m more flummoxed by is how children develop their own capacity for delivering jokes.

Tonight, for instance, Miles and I were sitting in bed reading a few books together. One of his favorites is (surprise, surprise) a Mickey Mouse book that reads each page to you by way of a series of corresponding buttons. It’s a great book to let Miles read as he drifts off, because he can still listen to it with or without an adult around to help him.

Tonight, though, I was present, listening again to the absurd story of Goofy’s missing cat and the unnecessarily lengthy search the gang undertakes to find it. We opened the book, and Miles pressed the first button.

“Oh no!” Mickey’s voice said from the book’s speaker. “Goofy’s cat is lost! Will you help us find the cat?”

“No!” I said jokingly.

“Silly daddy,” Miles replied as he flips the page.

“Can you press the next button?” I asked.

Miles places his finger on the second button, then instead opts for the first button again.

“Oh no! Goofy’s cat is lost! Will you help us find the cat?”

“Yeah, but can you hit the NEXT button?” I asked again.

Miles flipped to the next page, then once again hit the first button.

“Oh no! Goofy’s cat is lost! Will you help us find the cat?”

“Miles,” I said, “that’s not the button for this page!”

Again, he flipped the page. And again, he hits the first button.

“Oh no! Goofy’s cat is lost! Will you help us find the cat?”

At this point he’s started laughing.

“Are you messing with me?” I asked.

He flipped to the next page. But this time he didn’t press a button, he simply started slowly leaning over, craning his neck to look me dead in the eye. I looked away from the book and saw him there, staring at me with this wide grin, just waiting for me to crack.

And then he pressed that damn button again. And I cracked up.

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