At dinner last night, our four-year-old daughter looked up from her bowl of noodles and announced, “I am a goofball.”
Fair enough. No one was willing to argue the point. After all, we have seen her take a toy kitchen sink, center it on her derrière and say, “Look at my sink-butt. Take a picture.”
She is a master of the comic shrug, the raised eyebrow, the half-tilted head. She does situation comedy so well that I sometimes wonder if she is channeling the spirits of Abbot and Costello or Charlie Chaplin.
She draws the line at comic falls. For a four-year-old, that part still isn’t funny. We go through a lot of band aids.
Still, I love that she is so very proud of her goofball status. For her, being a goofball is a talent. It’s an art that she fosters through play and imagination and a complete inability, at this age, to take herself too seriously.
For my daughter, the knock-knock joke is funny simply because she laughs. It doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t have to follow the rules.
My daughter delights in messes. Her big fantasy is to make a mess and not have to clean it up. Her goofiness is an extension of her messiness, of her ability, her willingness to look at a tangle and not comb it out. Her dolls stay naked, their knotted hair adorned with multicolored barrettes. Food on the floor can be solved, mom, by simply getting a dog. The world, for the goofball, does not contain errors or problems, so much as opportunities.
At some point, we all forget the art of being a goofball. With rare exceptions – Adam Sandler, or Robin Williams – we begin to care about the mess. The knock-knock joke is only funny if somebody else is laughing. “The way things work” becomes more than the title of a book. It becomes a way to live.
As an adult, I take myself too seriously. My clothes (usually) match: no polka dots with stripes, no navy blue with black. My children make their own fashion rules, based on creativity rather than cachet. They wear their brightest, wildest, most “favorite-est” clothes together. They shine. They laugh.
I clean up my messes. And theirs. I comb the doll’s hair, get rid of the tangles. I vacuum under the table and we, still, do not have a dog. I see problems, more than opportunities.
I wonder sometimes, when I watch my daughter with a sink on her bottom, what would happen if we all pursued the art of being a goofball. If both sides of a debate dropped their pickets and traded knock-knock jokes instead, what would change? Would we see each other differently? As opportunities, rather than problems?
At the very least, I think we would use fewer band aids. In our house, that’s always a good thing – unless you have the Spiderman kind. Then, it’s every goofball for herself.