Parenting children traumatised by their early experiences has taken me to some of the most bleak, incredible, lonely and wonderful places: places I had never imagined existed before I became a parent. At the same time the experience has been one of the most comic: not in a flippant way, but in the way that comedy and tragedy collide and for a moment the tragedy is forgotten and perhaps longer term becomes more bearable.
And thank goodness for that, because without the moments of comedy accompanying us through the times of drudgery and drama, where would we be?
Comedy is about making sense of things, its pain relief, an unsticking, its sharing something silly and profound with someone. Laughter, even in the bleakest of times humanises, ourselves and each other. It magics us away from rage and despondency and tips us off our high horses and out of our despair. Laughing along with someone, a child, a partner is pure connection.
And it is one way of trying to marry up the mainstream lives we may have imagined for ourselves, with the bizarre lives we end up with (and perhaps not just because of the kind of parenting we do). It’s a bridging material. Comedy is found in dissonance and there’s never been a greater need for that.
If you were at the Adoption UK conference last weekend then you may have noticed the sound of laughter everywhere; around the coffee tables, the stands, the dining room, the toilet queue. It’s what happens when isolated people come together and find things in common. It’s the sheer relief of realising you are not alone in say happening upon a poo in a strange place or a digestive biscuit in your wash bag. These events experienced alone can be a long way from funny, but sharing them takes some of the the sting away. And the next time something similar happens, we may be able to experience it with a comic disbelief, rather than the hopeless kind.
That’s not to say I’ve laughed my way through parenthood. I haven’t. I’m not insane. The moment itself, in that moment can be too painful for words but what plays out after that moment, given a bit of context, can be comic, in the full Shakespearean sense of the word. And like they say, if you don’t laugh, you cry, or you get angry, or withdrawn.
The ability and the opportunity to see the comedy gives us back some power and it reminds us we are all doing the best we can. And the best kind of comedy, my favourite kind isn’t mean, it’s full of heart. And you need tonnes of that to be a therapeutic parent.
Thank you to everyone who came to the Adoption UK conference in Birmingham. I hope you came away feeling encouraged and connected. I certainly did. It was a joy to meet so many people, so thank you! And for those who couldn’t make it, here’s something I shared from my own catalogue of self care strategies, filed under ‘funny youtube videos”.