How I Know the Apple Didn’t Fall Too Far From the Tree

Do you ever have those moments when you look at your family and are all, Who ARE you people? Throughout our marriage, there have been occasional times when my husband will do something so outlandish that I have to perform a quick time-lapsed review of everything I know about him thus far and decide if the person staring back at me is the same person I married instead of some Polo shirt-clad impostor. Such crises in marriage often occur when your spouse does not speak favorably about Chili’s happy hour.

I think it only gets worse when you have children. Your spouse is a virtual wild card with no genetic ties to you (one hopes, but shout out to all the British royalty and Appalachian inbreeds who read my blog),  so you can’t really be surprised when they reveal a strange part of their personality to you. But your kids are different. Parents are always quick to point it out when their children emulate them in some way –

Look at Johnny! He’s got a temper just like his mama!


There’s no mistaking who Mary’s daddy is! She is a pint-sized version of my husband!

But when their kids exhibit some kind of behavior that they can’t trace back to genetics, parents break out into a cold sweat. The moment your child stands on a table at Chuck E. Cheese and pulls his pants down just for funsees, you don’t care how much he looks like you. That kid can’t possibly be yours. It’s not that you’re embarrassed – I mean, you’re at Chuck E. Cheese on a Saturday night for cripe’s sake, so your standards have been deteriorating for awhile now – but you’re so discombobulated by your child’s behavior because you have no reference point for it. What genetic marker makes a kid want to eat chalk? She certainly didn’t get it from me.

Unless she did.

Lately, C has been doing this thing where when she’s having a hard time processing sad or unhappy emotions, she just laughs at whatever is distressing her. She’ll be watching TV and if she sees something that disturbs her, she’ll come over to me, point to the TV and say “funny!” very nervously. One time we were out and when she saw another kid bawling about something, she retreated to my husband and told him that the kid who was crying was funny. B and I were both a little disturbed at first that she seemed to be taking pleasure out of another child’s unhappiness, but once we looked at the big picture and recognized that her reaction was a simple coping mechanism, we chilled out.

Maybe we don’t laugh in the face of danger like our kid – we much prefer to submit ourselves to a Netflix-induced coma – but we can understand why she expresses her frustrations the way she does.

Hug by Jez Alborough

Hug by Jez Alborough

Things came to a head one night when we were reading C her bedtime story. She has always really liked this picture book Hug by Jez Alborough. A little chimp named Bobo walks through the African savanna searching for his mommy, who is presumably just out of his eyeshot. The pictures are charming and the story cute and reassuring. But as she has gotten older, C has become more in tune with what is actually going on in it: a child can’t find his mom and becomes extremely upset when his continual search shores up nothing. For a two-year-old, that’s pretty much the scariest thing imaginable.

One night, we were all reading the book together and when we got to the page where Bobo becomes so frustrated that he bursts into tears, C pointed at the picture and once again nervously laughed, “Happy.” In a brief memory lapse of what she was doing, B reminded her that Bobo was crying and that he wasn’t actually happy at all. C, of course, knew this, and absolutely lost it in a way that only a toddler can. She was inconsolable and heartbroken, and she sat there weeping and repeating “no, no, no” for nearly twenty minutes.

B and I felt helpless. She didn’t want to be held or hugged, and she refused her pacifier and her bunny. This was clearly a moment when her emotions were more than she could handle. I could barely keep it together myself because seeing your child so distraught and knowing there’s nothing you can really do for them except be physically present is a tremendously frustrating place. Tears wall you out.

As parents, I think we all know that there comes a time when we have to just leave our children to the messy task of working through their emotions, but we never want it to be so early. She’s only two.

So after twenty minutes of weeping and moaning and gnashing of teeth, we put her in bed, reassuring her that if she needed us, we’d be in the next room. She was still crying, but there was nothing we could do.

And the moment we left her room and shut the door, B and I looked at each other and started giggling frantically. Frantically. Not at her, but at the situation. A two-year-old’s inability to cope with a crying monkey had completely undone us. 

It occurred to me that C was right the entire time. Laughing is a really good way of coping when things are too overwhelming.

Maybe the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree after all. We’re all a bunch of weirdos, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Oh and PS. She was asleep three minutes later.

Like me on Facebook? You should totally like me on Facebook. It’s like a warm puppy in your heart. Or bacon. Or a children’s book that never makes your kid cry. 



  1. Parenting is not for those with weak stomachs!!! While watching the saddest scene in the saddest movie of all time in a woman packed movie theater a poor lady blew her nose and honked. My sister in law and I both succumbed to giggles unlike anything I have ever experienced. From agony and weeping to hilarious body shaking silent guffaws we rode those waves of emotion.

    I tell myself that strong emotions are very closely related and can cross over pretty easily…that’s how I sleep at night and don’t hate myself for giggling in church or at a funeral.

    Also. I traumatized my 4 year old back in the day. I thought she’d love Benji. However, while I was slicing veggies for dinner I heard keening….you know the crying like you hear during funerals…she was completely a mess. The bad guys kicked a dog and she was sure it was dead. It took weeks to convince her to finish the movie to see that all ended well. Whew. At 27 she still talks about it. But she is NOT a homicidal maniac, she’s pretty awesome all around. So no harm done. Well, not totally.

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever made it through the end of Steel Magnolias without giggling at inappropriate times. I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one whose probably gotten dirty looks for spoiling other theater-goer’s cinematic moments. Thanks, Kelly!

  2. “We’re all a bunch of weirdos.” Life’s just easier when we acknowledge that, isn’t it? :)
    Loved this post; looking forward to reading more!

    1. It certainly takes the pressure off when we eat sushi on Thanksgiving. Thank you!

  3. Although I am not a parent but I just checked my pulse so I know I’m still a living being, I recall that like C. I used to laugh in/at stressful situations, too. Eventually, I grew out of it. Probably around age 40. C seems like a very bright tot. I wouldn’t be surprised if she exits this phase by age three. Maybe by then you’ll let me hire her to do my taxes.

    1. She got an abacus for her birthday, so I’m ready to commit her to that. She shouldn’t mind.

  4. Awww! Poor Cee! Toddler years are tough.

    1. I agree. We need to get a drink together again soon.

      Oh wait. You meant they were tough on the *toddler.*

      Carry on.

  5. Great post, Emily! Emotions can be such weird things and I, too, have found myself laughing at the strangest moments. I’m so glad for Cee that she has such wonderful and supportive parents.

    1. Thanks, Cathy. It’s hard, but she’s a pretty awesome kid to parent ;)

  6. “There was nothing we could do.” AKA parenthood.
    Liked this post a lot.

    1. You know what I mean. Parenting may be the biggest lost cause.

  7. I’ve only been overwhelmed by Baby C’s tears once, and that was a night he was crying for his mother and she just wasn’t there. You can’t explain to a two-year old that mommy doesn’t live there anymore so I just held him and let him cry, and damn near joined him in letting the tears flow.

    1. Oh man, that must have been really hard for you both. :(

      1. It was not pleasant, that’s for sure.

        1. In the few times I’ve cried in front of C, she has gotten really upset.

          1. I tried really hard not to cry in front of him. I didn’t want to compound the problem.

  8. I didn’t really learn to laugh at stuff like that until my third one came along. You guys are WAY ahead of the curve, and Cee is one lucky kid! :D

    1. I have to give a lot of credit to my hubster. If he hadn’t started laughing first, I probably would have just started crying right then. Sometimes it’s good to let your partner lead… ;)

  9. I hate to tell you, but your kid doesn’t do anything unique. It all goes back to genetics. Scary. really.

    1. I believe it! She’s turning more into me every day!

  10. If I had a kid that pulled his/her pants down in public, I would definitely know where they got it from.
    I’d still blame my wife though.

    So is it that she laughed, or that she couldn’t articulate why she laughed that upset you?

    1. No, at her age, I don’t expect her to articulate much at all (although she’s amazingly verbose when she sees something that she wants.) What alarmed us at first was that she was seeing things that were sad or unfortunate and saying that they were happy or laughable. I had images running though my head of kids setting cats on fire, and I guess that’s why we were a little concerned at first.

  11. Holy crap, JUST this morning one of my boys (who is currently working through the ins and outs of death, causing an emotional rollercoaster all of my own) started laughing hysterically about the thought of a friend dying. And yeah, it was just a coping mechanism because he was upset 2 seconds later, but man, it was disturbing at 8 am on the way to daycare. Then I remembered how my cousin and I are still on my extended family’s shit list for laughing hysterically at my beloved grandfather’s funeral. Anyway, thank you for this post today so I can alleviate any concern that I am raising an emotionally imbalanced son.

    1. I am so glad you could identify with it! In a way, laughing at sad things is actually a highly empathetic coping mechanism, and I’d much rather my kid deal with her feelings that way than feel absolutely nothing at all.

  12. I love this. So cute to imagine her crying at that book! And you two laughing afterward. My guess is that it wasn’t about the monkey at all, but maybe extreme fatigue? ;) Love the cute graphic btw.

    1. Fatigue probably had something to do with it. Her sleep schedule seems to be leveling off, and she’s worn out at the end of the day.

      Thanks about the graphic! PicMonkey needs to go ahead and hire me to be it’s #1 cheerleader.

  13. I blame all my kids’ weird behavior on my husband. And there are a lot of strange behaviors to be blamed. Kids are really quite weird. (At least mine are) I think that realizing you do something that your kids do is kind of unsettling. We’re always linking things they do to getting it from us. But when you see yourself doing something you never knew you did- until you see your little mini me doing it- then you wonder if you’ve always done said habit/action or did you pick it up from them? Hmmmm…. that’s when you just fill up the wine glass a little bit more….

    1. All I know is that if she ever develops a nervous tick, it for sure came from me.

  14. It amazes me how resilient little kids are when they’re able to do stuff like what C was doing. Thanks for sharing that with us.

    1. It helps to remind me that there is so much going on in that little head of hers. Aside from Elmo.

  15. I felt like my child was a stranger when she was in high school not bad just a teenager I guess. I jokingly told my Mother and sister that she didn’t come out of me.

    1. I totally don’t look forward to the teenage years. If they are anything like the toddler years, then I need to go ahead and start shopping for boarding schools.

  16. I want to hug all three of you! And then we can all laugh!

  17. Awww, poor Cee. I’m glad she recouped. That was/is totally me. I still go from laughing to crying through books I read… and movies I watch. I’m an overly-empathetic processor… it causes malfunctions sometimes. :) Yay for weirdos!

  18. Awww – emotions are hard for kids. I remember the first time my son watched Charlotte’s Web (he was probably 5 or 6) and he was crying and saying “I’m crying and I don’t know why” – my little heart tugged for him. My son still is uncomfortable with sad emotions – and I know that’s from my tree :)

  19. You guys are some of my favorite weirdos. You’re right, it is so hard to watch your child so upset…but it is also kind of funny when you really consider the random things that can send them off the deep end. Sometimes you just have to laugh. You have to. The hard part is making sure you child doesn’t catch you laughing at their hardship…because then all hell breaks lose.

  20. We are just a bunch of weirdos
    Sometimes Laughing is really a good way to deal with things when they are too overwhelming.
    I loved these lines.
    I’ll try to do the laughing part.
    Look forward to more

  21. Aww, poor Cee! And although I know I have oh-so-many more of the moments of letting him work through stuff, I’m dreading it! I’m the mom who was just in tears at his well check because he was afraid of the doctor and just screaming, bawling and reaching for me. The doctor asked me to stand away from the table so he could just do the exam and get it over with, reminding me it’s normal and ok. My husband looked over at me and saw the tears and just kind of giggled. :-) I can’t help it! I told myself in that moment that I need to learn to let him handle things on his own, but it’s SO HARD.

  22. They really are like Tinkerbell the way they can hold only one (BIG) emotion at a time. I miss (sort of) the days when they wore all their emotions on their sleeve. Now their emotions are getting complicated and we have to delve a bit to find out what’s bugging them on any given day. Loved this post; it brought it all back.

  23. If I had a Facebook account, I would totally like you.(:

    I love the laugh, cry, sleep sequence, too. Works for me!

    Great post. I like the way it has me thinking deeper minus angst.

  24. I don’t know if it changes that much or whether you just see it coming when you have no.2. Life is still an emotional roller-coaster with my eldest.We never know what to expect. But then I see her mimicking me to her baby sister and then I see myself!! Laughing is good though and I so wanna try reading ‘hug’ to my girls, if it gets them to sleep that is ;-). Great post!

  25. […] I remember when she learned what it was to hurt. […]

  26. […] when I mix humor with the things in my life that I’m most frustrated with. Really, it’s a survival mechanism when you’re a parent. It is our mindset ; a great relationships is about little daily wins ; If […]

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