Staring Contest

Hal entered the dining room with a blue towel wrapped tightly around his hips, hair wet from his shower. He stared at me intently and asked, with a small enigmatic smile on his clean face, “Do my eyes look red?”

I glanced at his eyes, not sure whether I was to look at his eyeballs or the surrounding skin. I thought that maybe – maybe – the rims of his eyes, especially along the bottom might have been red. “Yeah, little bit, looks like,” I said.

He smiled and turned to his dad, who nodded. He turned back slightly to take in both of us and said, with humor in his voice, “I was having a staring contest.” He paused for dramatic effect, just long enough for me to wonder with whom. He answered that question when he resumed, “With myself in the mirror and my eyes were starting to sting.” Again he paused, looking back and forth between his patient audience members. I had time to imagine him leaning into the mirror, straining to keep his eyes open, tears forming, and then he dropped the punchline with a wide smile, “until we both blinked. At the same time.”

We both barked out a laugh, which made his smile engulf his face. The last part of the evening had been like that – Hal telling a good joke. Hal laughing freely when we gently poked fun at him. The usual strident arguing, defensive posturing, and quick, overblown outrage we have become accustomed to were all missing. Hopefully this means he is growing up. The witty personality underneath is quite a delight.

Why Did The…?

“Why did the elephant cross the road?” asked my 11 year old son.


“Because it was the chicken’s day off.”


“Why did the rooster cross the road?” asked his 6 year old brother.

“Because it was mating season and he was after the chicken?” I asked.  He didn’t even ponder my response.  Too young.

“No.  Because he needed to use the bathroom so he went across the street to a restaurant but it didn’t have a bathroom because it was a new restaurant and they hadn’t built a bathroom yet so he had to go outside on the porch.”

Before I could respond, the 11 year old asked, “Why did the gum cross the road?”

“The gum?”

“Yes, the gum.”


“Because it was trying to catch the shoe.  Get it?  It’s like catching the flu except it’s a shoe because it gets stuck on the bottom of your shoe.  And so it’s a gumshoe.”


“Why did the gum cross the road?”  The 6 year old was not to be outdone.


“Because someone was trying to get it so it was running away and it went across the street but then when the boy got across the street and finally got it, it’d been stuck to the road and so the boy went, ‘Ooh!  Yucky pooey!  I don’t want to eat that now.'”

Jokes have a way of devolving once they get rolling.  This is one of many conclusions I’ve been able to draw from my fourteen years of parenting to date.

Rhetorical Joke

Last night I learned what a Rhetorical Joke is.

Did you know what a Rhetorical Joke is? Huh? Didya?

I didn’t think so. Let me enlighten you.

A Rhetorical Joke is one where the joke teller doesn’t expect you to laugh. So says my ten year old son.

He made some strange joke at the dinner table about $100 living on the same street as $20. I looked at my husband and asked if I was supposed to have a response to that.

Daryl then informed me that it was a rhetorical joke and no response was expected.

Now ya know. And you’re the better for knowing… right?