Laughing Matters

What my daughter taught me on our weekend in the woods

It was a great idea: A mother/ daughter camping trip in the mountains with my 16-year-old, Serena. I had high hopes. We'd talk by firelight late into the night, we'd walk through the stillness of the woods, we'd bond and come home closer than ever.

The reality was a different story. Despite the bright blue sky, the fresh mountain air, the melodic song of the bluebird, Serena and I were at each other's throats. And we didn't even have our tent up yet.

As we hiked to our campsite, it was clear that Serena didn't want to be with me. She disagreed with me about everything and blamed me for imagined problems. I tried to make meaningful observations about the wonder of creation and the beauty around us, but she wasn't interested. Eventually, we settled into an uncomfortable silence.

When we reached our campsite, we argued about where to place the tent. We argued about what to have for dinner. We argued about which trails to hike the following day. Around 10:00 p.m. our volatile conversation escalated and we ended our first day of "bonding" with me in my sleeping bag on one side of the tent and Serena in her sleeping bag scrunched against the opposite wall, as far away from me as possible.

Suddenly, from the far corner of the tent, I heard laughter. Puzzled, I whispered, "Serena, what's so funny? The day has been so difficult." Her answer, quite frankly, shocked me. "Mom, I think you take life way too seriously. Sometimes I love pushing your buttons, and then watching you react. You lose it over the littlest things. You get so intense sometimes!" And then she added tenderly, "Mom, don't you realize how much I'm like you? I need to lighten up. My friends tell me I'm intense, too."

Her words stung a little, but slowly, I began to laugh and laugh loudly. In fact, I laughed so hard tears were streaming down my face. Soon we were both laughing hysterically, unable to stop. The tension between us literally disappeared.

I crawled out of my sleeping bag and climbed over to Serena. In the darkness, I reached out my arms and we held each other. Laughter had penetrated both of our souls and we were altered. Silence returned, but this time it was different. This silence was the peace that is beyond our understanding. This contented moment was of God.

As I fell asleep, I realized it had been too long since I laughed like that, especially with my kids. The laughter had done more than help Serena and me reconnect. It had provided a safe way for her to tell me something that was on her heart. It allowed me to hear something that I never would have heard had she confronted me in anger. Laughter had brought us together in a way my efforts to be deep and reflective had failed to do.

The next morning the sky was still bright blue and the mountain air still sweet. Nothing around us had changed. But we had. A quiet, unspoken serenity enveloped our camp site. We realized we had been given a precious gift, something we didn't want to leave behind in the mountains. We wanted to be like Moses coming down from Mount Sinai, glowing from his experience. Most of all, I didn't want to forget my daughter's words, or the lesson God had taught me about lightening my sometimes overloaded heart.

Proverbs 17:22 says it best, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Whatever is weighing heavy on your heart today, don't let it dry your bones. Let laughter refresh you. It is a medicine that truly creates growth.

Barbara Schiller is the executive director of Single Parent Family Resources www.singleparentfamilyresources.com. To respond, e-mail bschil4150@aol.com

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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