Do three year olds have a sense of humour?

I was FURIOUS with DH yesterday. DD’s been having another bit of a wobble at nursery, probably just not back into the swing of things after her virus and the bank hols. Yesterday was a mummy day, and I tried really hard to be calm and cheerful and to keep her calm and cheerful. The aim was to help her relax and feel secure, for us (and DS) to all have fun together. We had a lovely day in the sunshine with a couple of low-level treats. I didn’t shout and she didn’t burst into tears all day. Hurrah. (This is a major achievement for me and DD when we are together all day, especially with no visits or visitors.)

Then DH gets home, a bit early. The kiddies are delighted to see him, as am I. Bathtime and storytime progress smoothly. We talk about DD going to stay with my parents (her beloved grandma and dziadziu) this weekend for a couple of nights so she can be spoiled rotten and I can give DS my full attention for once before we all go on holiday next week. Then, just before bed, DH says to DD ‘And when you get back we’ll be gone to Spain on holiday and you’ll have to stay here by yourself with Charlie Cat!’. OMG. This is his idea of a joke.

I didn’t say anything, just laughed it off as ‘silly daddy’, and off we all trooped upstairs for bedtime. DD took a while to let me go, a little unusually, and there were a few tears, very unusually, before she would settle down. Then a couple of hours later, we hear this wailing from upstairs and she’s half asleep having a nightmare. This isn’t uncommon, but we haven’t had one for weeks.

I came downstairs after settling her feeling really upset. My baby girl is clearly feeling a bit insecure at the moment, for whatever reasons, and the one thing she really didn’t need to hear just before bed was a ‘joke’ about being abandoned, left behind, being alone, and missing out on her holiday. I told DH off and he got really defensive. This morning, though, the first thing he did was talk to DD, apologise and reassure her that we would never leave her and we are all going to Spain together.

My very limited understanding of neuroscience is that the human sub-conscious does not have ‘a sense of humour’ and processes everything that’s said and heard quite literally. That’s why sarcasm and self-deprecation are so damaging to our self-esteem, because deep down, this becomes how we actually feel about ourselves. And why, after 20 years, DH’s amusing little digs at my idiosyncracies have become slightly wearing.

I don’t think it matters whether daddy is joking or not. I think we really need to watch what we say to our children, so far from being a laugh, it doesn’t become something for them to worry about.

What do you think? Am I taking this all a bit too seriously and lacking in a sense of humour myself? Have you or someone close to your kids ever made a ‘joke’ that they took literally?



  1. How did I not find you blog before? Love your tweeting & now I can read the longer version too and reply in more than 140 characters!
    I totally understand why you were fed up and agree that sarcasm can be taken the wrong way especially by someone so young and sensitive or me at the wrong time of the month!
    On the other hand I’m a big fan of that line of humor and think it’s very important to be able to laugh at yourself and sometimes in life we will come across people who will take the mickey from us in not very nice ways and we need to learn to let it wash over us or come up with a sharp retort. Without this inbuilt self-defense life will throw us too many knocks.
    So perhaps your DH didn’t choose the right way to introduce sarcasm but in a few years time your DD shall be saying ‘no worries Dad I’ll have my mates over for a party!’ Who will have the last laugh then?

  2. I don’t know – I’m often sarcastic, but not that extreme. I don’t think any child would find that funny. At all. I sure wouldn’t.

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