I stood in the kitchen, scrolling through my phone with one hand one last time before I got busy tidying up. My daughter was just under a year old at the time, and she stood at my feet, trailing me with every step I took.
I shuffled around her, side stepped her, picked up my phone to see what a “ping” was about, and buried my head once again. And then—I stopped.
My phone-clutching hand dropped to my side, and I peered into her eyes. She stood looking up at me with yearning eyes, as if to say, “Mommy, will you play with me?”
I bent down and machine-gun-kissed her cheek, “mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah.” She threw her head back and almost ten little giggles escaped.
I reached forward and tickled her belly. More giggles tumbled out.
I swooped her up and into my arms, smooched her neck and cheeks again. Her giggles filled the kitchen.
In the minutes that I paused what I was doing and played with her, what must have been close to 100 giggles exploded out of her tiny little body.
I sat her back down to her feet and wondered: what if I’d missed 100 giggles?
What if I’d failed to pause in that moment and play with her? Those giggles would’ve remained tucked inside.
She’s always been playful and giggled at the drop of a hat, but I wondered how many giggles I’d actually missed because I was distracted or busy or staring into a screen instead of her eyes.
What if I’ve missed 1,000 giggles? What if I miss 100,000 or 1 million over her lifetime? What if I’m always so distracted by the tasks in front of me; what if my mind is always too preoccupied?
I know that I can’t spend every waking moment playing with my daughter, and I know that wouldn’t be good for her. And while I’ve always gotten down on the floor and played with her regularly, I wondered how many other moments I’d had the opportunity to seize that I didn’t.
She won’t always be this easy to make laugh. And, as she moves into adulthood, she’ll laugh less and less. Her fun-loving personality might keep her laughing and smiling, but I know that children naturally laugh more easily and more often than adults.
We all quote the familiar idiom, “Laughter is the best medicine.” And, it is—with both short-term and long-term effects. It stimulates organs, relieves stress, relieves pain, improves the immune system, increases satisfaction, and more.
That’s not why I was so struck by the thought that I might miss 100 of her giggles in a day simply because I’m not present and engaging her though.
I was struck by the thought that she has loads of giggles within her ready to escape, just waiting for me to coax them out. She doesn’t depend on me to make her giggle, but when I do I share in her delight, in her joy.
I was struck by the thought that I was trading giggles for pings and notifications and to-do list tick marks.
I was struck by the fact that every time I fail to play with her even for a moment, those little giggles sit inside—unheard by me and the world.
I was struck by the thought that I was missing giggles, that I could miss giggles.
There are things I have to get done, that’s the reality of life. But, I realized I could seize little moments to play. And, I could put my darn phone down a whole lot more. Those pings can wait.
It’s how we live in the moment—interweaving play and laughter throughout the demands of the day. I went from a “work hard, play hard” mentality to having joy and play and giggles woven into the fabric of everything we do.
Together, as we claim moments, it’s as if we’re saying, “Day, with your everyday killjoys, we’re going to live fully within you and seize every opportunity to delight and be filled with joy.”
Before I finished writing this piece, my daughter slipped away from playtime with daddy and wandered over to my chair. She reached her arms upward, and I scooped her into my lap. I machine-gun-kissed her all over, “mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah,” tickled her tummy, and blew on her belly as giggle after giggle burst out.
In a matter of minutes, we’d racked up close to 100 giggles. And those are the numbers that truly count.