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Today on the sidelines of my daughter’s softball game we all had a laugh about a young lady who had a tight catch on a fly ball that was coming her way, yet took a moment to flip her hair first as if she had all the time in the world and issues of beauty took top priority. It was cute and unexpected and very teenager, so comments and jokes were tossed around among the parents until we’d exhausted all our silly thoughts. It was happy, easy, funny banter that is common, and I can see, builds community among us.

I am so conscious of such exchanges because there was a time when I was confused by such laughter. When I was a kid, laughter at my house was usually because someone was being made fun of. Once I left home and met my husband, we used to spend time with his family and friends all who excelled at the kind of silliness I saw on the sidelines today. His family comes up with jokes-on-top-of-jokes just for the excuse of entertaining themselves, but for me it was so unfamiliar I was sure I was missing something. At first, because I was not aware I should pay attention to silly talk I drifted out of such conversations, and when I returned I usually thought all the laughing was at me. Later on, after I’d learned from my husband that that was not the case, I imagined that everything was an inside joke that I couldn’t possibly enjoy. The truth is that these kinds of conversations are said in hushed tones because they are sometimes off-color, or in bad taste, or at someone’s expense, and happen quickly. They are rarely inside jokes, but you do have to be listening. My lack of experience left me handicapped and I couldn’t keep up. Hanging around my husband and his family for thirty years, though, has taught me a thing or two, mostly, that these conversations are situational and anyone can be in on the jokes.

They happen all the time among lots of people and they build community among us, but these are the kinds of things I didn’t have growing up because I was physically and emotionally isolated.

Teach your kids to laugh so later on they can get the joke.