Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

Family dynamic

Several weeks ago we were wiling away an early Sunday evening in the living room, the two of us watching the national news while Leta pretended that her Sleeping Beauty Barbie was dead. I got up to clean the kitchen just as America’s Funniest Videos was coming on, and within minutes the laughter erupting from the living room was loud enough to pull me away from a sink full of dirty dishes. I walked over to see what was going on, and there on the couch was a sea of lanky limbs, legs sprawled out on top of each other, two faces frozen in giggling so hysterical that it had crossed over into silence. This is yet another thing Leta inherited from her father, the habit of falling into a fit of laughter so hard that when it happens I don’t know if she’s laughing or dying. And in this instance if anyone had seen her contorted, silent body wedged between two couch cushions I would have had to assure them, no, she’s not dead, she just saw a video of a man accidentally setting his balls on fire.

She calls it The Funny Show, and several times a day she asks how many days until Sunday, how many days until we get to see The Funny Show again. And I’ll be honest, this is thrilling for both of us because we both could sit for hours and watch videos of people crashing their bikes into trees. And now our daughter does, too? You know, I’ve seen countless videos of people swinging bats at piñatas only to miss and hit someone in the crotch, but to sit there and share that moment with my daughter is something entirely different. Especially when she narrates her perspective out loud: “Oh no, oh no… no, no, no…. DON’T DO IT, DON’T DO IT… AHHH! AHHHH! AHHHHHHH! HE FELL OVER! HE FELL OVER! Rewind it! Rewind it! I want to see him fall over again!” Yes, it’s funny because that poor man fell over, not because you could hear his testicles crunching underneath the weight of the blow.

So this has become our Sunday ritual, we all wind down after dinner by watching videos of people disfiguring themselves, and it would be perfect except for the fact that Chuck cannot handle it. For some reason he is distressed by the sound and energy of our collective laughter and will sit in the middle of the floor and shake with anxiety. Usually he only behaves this way when I cough or when Jon and I have a serious discussion, and that only started happening in the months after Leta’s birth when I was a basket case. My postpartum depression scarred him, and if I make the tiniest move where it looks like I’m even thinking about tossing a milk jug at Jon’s head, Chuck will shed his entire coat and go hide in a closet. Turns out you can’t assure a dog that you still love Daddy, it’s just sometimes you experience an irrational, unfounded need to make him bleed.

But our laughter sounds nothing like yelling or arguing, so we have no idea why he will climb up onto the couch in the middle of The Funny Show and physically shove his body between us to try and break up the fun. The only thing I can come up with is that this is just another one of his many neurotic sensitivities, a hunch confirmed by the dog trainer we hired to help us with Coco, someone who boarded both dogs over the Thanksgiving holiday and got to experience Chuck’s neuroses first hand. She’s been training dogs for over ten years and has never before encountered anything so emotionally delicate as Chuck and told us that we’d been having so much trouble with Coco because we’d never before lived with a normal dog. Coco, she said, could let go. Chuck, on the other hand, would remember the kid in first grade who stole his fruit roll-up and then twenty years later open fire in a mall because he was still mad about it.

Coco is a dog. Chuck is a cat. And considering the multitude and nature of things we have put on his head, it will be no mystery if one of us goes missing.

  • Lola

    My kids (5 and 3) call it the Funny Show too!
    And during the whole show, their commentary is peppered with comments like “Oh, this isn’t going to be good!” or “That’s gotta hurt” and they LAUGH!!!!!

  • What a great thing to pass on the legacies to our children. I haven’t seen that show in forever but I imagine it would be even more entertaining to watch it with a four year old.

    Congrats on the pregnancy – it’s so fun watching your little baby bump getting bigger!

  • Anonymous

    ps… one more thought. Have you ever noticed how much laughter can sometimes sound like crying? especially to a non-enunciating being like a dog? Loud, short exclamations, could be very similar sounding to a pooch… just a thought.

    Also saw that you self-diagnosed the PTPD in your post…

  • “…falling into a fit of laughter so hard that when it happens I don’t know if she’s laughing or dying.”

    Hilarious!

  • My three year old calls the show GUYS FALL DOWN and gets mad at us when we laugh at the babies. Because you shouldn’t laugh at babies.

  • Lesley

    I don’t know if you read through all these comments, but I hope you see this. Leta is certain to get a kick out of it.

    Dance FAIL…wait for the fail, it’s spectacular.

  • bna311

    Oh woman you make me laugh!

  • Congrats on your new book! I am looking forward to your signing in Seattle.

    Interestingly, one of my Motherhood sisters just posted an interesting article on postpartum disorders. It was more than timely that I found the link to your book. I can’t wait to read it!

    Best,
    Christina-Marie Wright
    thegonzomama.com
    gonzoparentingzine.com
    motherhoodeggtozine.com

  • anna

    not sure if anyone’s mentioned golden retrievers, but i’ve known several who couldn’t abide any physical affection they weren’t a part of and would physically insert themselves into the embrace. they’d also get very upset if you covered your face and pretended to cry, nosing around to push your hands off and lick the tears away.

    anyway, all this makes me love chuck even more. i hope the new baby doesn’t throw his world into disarray.

  • Monica Mueller

    I haven’t read all the comments, so it’s possible someone posted this before, but if you love America’s Funniest Home Videos, you should check out

    http://failblog.org/

    it’s kind of like crack.

    have fun!

  • i’m so happy to see that other families have that disfunctionality of laughing till you’re mad or dead as i call it! i’m really starting to take a keen interest in your website and have even subscibed to the rss feed! others should do so too! my wish is to be the first commentator (like April was wishing in the 2nd comment!) but what i would say about which ever article it will be i’m quite unsure of!

    take care,

    H-S-H

  • I think to a dog, laughing sounds a lot like shouting, and you’ve already said he doesn’t like it when you shout/argue. This is understandable because he sees you as his leader and in dog hierarchies if you’re worried, he thinks he needs to be worried.

  • I don’t think Chuck thinks he’s a cat. I think he thinks he’s a person. People are neurotic. A Cat simply believes that she is the one true goddess of the universe and will thus display her supreme displeasure of your un-submitting presence in any one of 153 creative – albeit seemingly neurotic – ways.

  • I don’t know what it is about watching people crash, fall, and slip that makes me belly laugh, but it’s the best sort of relief if i’ve had a stressful day. How great it must be to hear Leta laugh so hard!

  • Oops! I feel awful, I accidentally linked to someone else in my comment above, I’ve corrected it in this comment. Apologies to the person I’ve linked to, I guess I need some caffeine!

  • Jennifer

    For some reason my youngest started calling this show “Crazy Babies” when he was about 3 years old. He’s now 10 and the whole family still calls it that. I can yell “crazy babies is on” and the whole lot of them come running to sit and laugh for an hour. Pretty amazing when 2 of them are teenagers. Who knew that crazy babies would be a bonding show for our family.

  • My dog howls incessantly whenever someone’s cell phone rings. Which is always fun when we take him to the park. Because, hello, people in this country can.not. live without cell phones apparently.

  • I think our animals are even more messed up than we are — they just know how to hide it under a veil of big-eyed furry cuteness. Our Lab, for example, was afraid of doorways and she’d only go through the ones she wasn’t afraid of in one direction, which resulted in a complicated pattern of movement throughout the house that most people didn’t understand. And getting her through strange doorways (vet, groomer, etc.) was a trip — literally.

  • Too funny! My kids love Americas Funniest. Now that we have a DVR they record them so they always have an episode to watch. Anything funny that happens in my house they want to reenact it so we can send it in.

  • Ha. ha. ha.

    I love that show. Cracks me up.

    My dog does the same thing.

  • chalkchic3

    great story! I love your blog…keep up the good work lady!

  • Red

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE YouTube “Scarlett Takes a Tumble”. If you like people falling and hurting themselves, this is AWESOME (start it around 2:20, although the whole video is amazing). Also, anytime Leta wants entertainment before AFHV, YouTube phrases like, “cheerleaders falling” and “treadmill accidents”. I have saved many a suicidal friend by instructing them to do the very thing I am telling you now.

    I, too, have a neurotic dog that has a heart attack when odd things happen, like putting on pants in the morning (“is she leaving??? OH MY GOD.” *pees*). The best thing I’ve ever purchased for my dog is the CD “Through a Dog’s Ear”…it sounded totally hokey when I read about it, but it truely is like Prozac for your mutt.

  • Obviously, Chuck must have been a cat in a previous life and is just vying for the attention he so rightly deserves!

  • That is so interesting about Chuck – I thought he was seriously mellow judging from the pix. Our collie likes to get between us when we discuss things too. But here’s the thing – Chuck couldn’t be cat-like because – cats don’t give a rip!

  • Katwolftex

    We do the same thing – all 3 of my kids love to watch that show, and half the fun is just watching them laugh so hard. Plus, people falling is the funniest thing in the world.

  • Kim

    One of our dogs also runs and hides the second our voices get serious. It doesn’t have to be an argument or anything, but if our tone is remotely stressed he is immediately under the bed. On the other hand, our female dog will try to comfort us if she thinks we’re upset. She’ll come snuggle.

    Oh, and I’m glad to know we’re not the only adults who find people falling down so hysterical. 🙂

  • Lee

    We, too, have a dog who is a cat. He, also, gets extremely upset if my husband and I have a discussion that starts to get loud. Enjoy your blog and hope that all is well

  • Aww, poor Chuck sounds like my Bella. We rescued her from the pound upon hearing she had been returned TWICE by the same woman. She’s as sweet as can be, but has some..er…anxiety issues. As in we switched our work schedules and she ate half the house in return. Lately, it’s jealously. If my husband and I are cuddling, she’s finding a way to maneuver her big ass between us. It’s adorable in a “AGH, DOG ASS!” sort of way.
    For the record, I’ve grown up with dogs all my life and never had a normal one. One thought he was people, one thought she was a cat thanks to an early boarding mishap, one would have moments of psychosis and try to eat the other dogs if they so much as looked at her, and one had some emotional issues and would put herself in the corner when she did something bad, most of the time without being told to. (By the way, that is a great trick to teach them!)

  • Anonymous

    Poor Chuck. He needs a therapist.

  • Jennifer

    Both of our daughters have loved this show from birth.

    Unfortunately, with our first one Bailey, we hadn’t learned the parental no-cussing trick and a “oh shit” apparently snuck out during one of the more painful looking videos. Sooo, that leads to a long battle with our then-3 yr old teaching her to say “oh my” or “oh goodness” instead of screaming “oh shit!”

  • Kathleine

    My kids call it the funny show too…explosive laughter erupts at our house when we watch it too…best medicine ever!

  • Jennifer

    ALSO – Re: Book Tour

    No love for the South! Please try and come somewhere in the Southeast…

  • HILARIOUS!!
    I recently found your blog and wow…you have a lot of readers. Impressive!

  • Barb

    My love for Chuck grows more every day. This post just sent me over the edge.

    Long live Chuck!

  • regiemino

    My daughter always called it “That Funny Show where People Fall Down”. Can’t believe it’s still on the air.

  • flwrchld

    Heather,
    I too had a overly sensative dog. A Rough Collie to be exact. And Sable had some serious issues. Sweet as could be, but very delicate and very emotionally concerned with everything around her. I spent hours with an at home trainer, in obedience classes, and in agility. We got past a lot of it, but sometimes all of the training did mean JACK! So, my trainer recommended “Rescue Remedy” that she used on her dog with thunderstorm anxiety. You can find at GNC stores etc., and you put a few drops in their water if you know something is coming… or if you need a quick fix a few drops on a treat or in soft dog food. It works WONDERS! It’s like natural prozac for dogs.

  • Ahhh, yes, AFV is a hit in our Trenches with 3 young boys.

    You haven’t lived until after watching a skateboarder attempt to slide down a pole only to slip off the skateboard and come crashing full force directly onto his twigs and berries, your 3-year old then comments matter-of-factly, “Now THAT’s gonna leave a mark.”

  • Sunday nights my wife lets me watch “my show” (what I call AFV) while eating dinner. Sometimes I laugh so hard, I can’t breathe and I make her pause the TV so I can recover. Knowing that this show — which has been on forever — will still be on when our 4-month-old son becomes aware of the innate beauty of a man getting hit in the testicles really warms my heart.

  • The crunching and loss of testicles makes everything funnier.

    Thank God for video cameras and the idiots in front of them it makes life all that much better.

    Sounds like Sunday should be Quaalude night for Chuck.

    Dogs up cats down.

    And my son just shit on the floor. Now that is just awesome.
    Nothing like a pile of poop to break up the day.

    On that note gotta go.

  • Anonymous
  • My very hipster roommates in Brooklyn and I used to watch America’s Funniest Home Videos together. It was family time. It was hilarious.

  • laralee

    I love American’s Funniest Home Videos. Sadly it was ripped from my life when my husband and I moved from an apartment that included cable in the rent to moving into our house that unfortunately does not include anything in the mortgage except for a place to live in. Due to the fact I am in school and don’t work cable is a luxury item that is not exactly on the priority list. My husband and I had a ritual much the same as yours. Eat dinner, sometimes we would make dinner in time to eat and watch it at the same time, or eat and then watch it. We laughed so hard. There is just something about people getting hit in the crotch or falling off bikes that you don’t want to miss! I envy your Sundays, and soon hope to get mine back!

    Enjoy
    From a huge fan of “The Funny Show”

  • My 3 girls love that show too but they call it The Hurtin’ Show.

    I hate to admit this to you but I’m not fond of dogs. at all. Thanks to Doogle the neighborhood dog that decided to take a chunck out of my knee when was 5 yrs. old. But I do have to say that I enjoy Chuck and I think I just might have a soft spot for him now after this post.

  • Ruby is a combination of Chuck and Coco. She was kicked out of doggy day care and blowing a bubble with your gum scares the crap out of her. She actually has had the crap scared out of her… sigh. But we love them.

  • Anonymous

    Oh god, we have a neurotic dog. I think that I have completely ruined my relationship with her because I am a yeller (not a hitter, I just yell when I am annoyed) and she never forgets. It took her almost a year to figure out house training, even crated! If I say “ouch” she dashes off to her crate. She may have to leave here for a new home now because she is jealous of the toddler and she is big- big is scary with a toddler.

    I do have a dog-cat(actually feline). She follows us on our walks and guards us from other people and animals. She also acts like I gave birth to the child and now it belongs to her. Her kitten.

  • Anna

    I’ve met a lot more neurotic dogs than cats. Cats get such a bad rap…for one thing, they sleep half the day so they aren’t awake long enough to get upset over stuff.

  • Lisa

    sounds like a typical night at my house. Except we don’t even have the kid yet! Here’s to hoping my baby will love watching other kids get flung into the mud by a wild dog and see babies get stuck in a bucket.

    We have two dogs and one gets very upset when we get loud, hug or initiate the tiniest little dance. She stands up, backs up and starts barking at us. And the other one gets right up inbetween us, almost like he is protecting us from the big angry one. Ahhh…dogs.

  • Agreed – there really is little funnier than strangers hurting themselves in unexpected ways. I wish the Funny Show were on every day, too.

  • Cara

    Our house is filled with giddy excitement on Sunday nights when our kids realize that “Funniest Tom Videos” is on after bath. We have more fun watching the kids crazy reactions and laughing along with them than watching the videos themselves.

    Glad to know we’re not the only ones who watch stupid human tricks with our kids 😉

  • Julia

    I’ve fallen madly in love with Chuck, he seems like such an amazing pet. And try as I might, my cat won’t let me stack anything on his head. 🙁

    I’m sure you’ve seen this, but if not, it’s a Japanese gameshow where the point is to stack food on an animals heads. I think Chuck would win hands down.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLmSgjPLJPs