Dad, You Aren’t Funny!

Posted on: 01/12/12 11:09 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I heard it again yesterday when I dropped off Ashley at school. I made a quick joke, that years ago would have had her in hysterics, but now… she just looks at me expressionless and says those words that I hear so frequently, “Dad, you aren’t funny.”

Is this true? What ever happened to my little Daddy’s Girl that used to laugh at every joke I ever said… even the lame ones? Did I lose the funny-gene somewhere after age 40? Around my own kids I feel like Bruno Kirby’s pathetic character in the movie, Good Morning Vietnam, who couldn’t face the fact that he wasn’t funny, and simply responded, “Sir, in my heart, I know I’m funny.”

As a guy who speaks for a living, it’s difficult when your toughest audience is your youngest daughter. I have no problem getting a whole sanctuary full of adults laughing, and whole campgrounds full of teenagers rolling on the floor. But Ashley now? I might get a chuckle one in five jokes.

At what point do parents cease being funny and cool?

In my house, it hit when my kids reached about 8th grade and it lasted well into their sophomore year. With my two oldest, Alec and Alyssa, they returned from “the darkness” (that’s what we call it in my house—the time when teenagers are just emotional, whiny brats that no one can please, no matter what you do) after just a couple years. But oooooooooh… those were grim years! I remember my little Ashley, back then, observing her older siblings’ antics and saying, “Dad, I’m not going to be like that, am I?”

And I would always plead with her, “No Ashley. Please don’t ever go to the dark side!”

But then it just happened! I heard about it from plenty of my friends and I read it in hundreds of parenting books. “One day your teenagers won’t want you around as much.”

I didn’t believe it. I thought, Not me! This is only something that boring parents experience. I’m fun! I’m funny! (Did I just type that out loud?)

But it happened, literally overnight. One day I just wasn’t funny anymore.

The other morning when I couldn’t get Ashley to laugh, I did the rookie mistake and tried harder. I was reaching deep in the bowels of my humor vault, finally resorting to some good ol’ fart humor. When in doubt, fart humor has always worked with Ashley.

Not even a chuckle.

Silent, but deadly.

In all seriousness, having teenagers of my own has been a learning experience. Each one has been different, but at the same time, they’ve gone through similar stages. Luckily “the dark side,” as we call it in my house, has only lasted about 2 years for each of my kids.

Sigh. Two years of not being funny.

I’m willing to wait. But, “In my heart, I know I’m funny!”

What about you?
Am I alone?

If you’re a parent of teenagers, did this happen to you?

Have you, like me, learned that the best thing to do is, not try?

12 Replies to “Dad, You Aren’t Funny!”

  1. As always…..I am right there with you….actually I still think you live in my head lol. Being cool to all the kids in the youth group just isn’t enough when it comes to being cool to my own kid who just entered our own youth group. Praise God for a team of youth workers and other mentors at our church that might be able to fill that position that I fill for so many others, well, just not him! ha! Entering the darkside….but praying they have a flashlight! Thanks, yet again, for affirming where I am and that it will be ok! 😉

    1. Thanks for sharing. I remember when Ashley entered the jr. high group at our church. My wife and I both volunteered in the jr. high group at the time. When she moved on to high school she asked, “Dad, you’re not gonna volunteer there now, are you?” 🙂

  2. Almost there. My oldest turns 13 next month (February). Right now we have a GREAT relationship. She has a great sense of humor and we are a lot alike. I really enjoy hanging out with her – she not perfect and I still want to yell “what were you thinking” a lot, but all in all she is turning out “better that we’ve raised her.” I’m nervous about the “dark side.” My youngest (9) I think already flirts with the “dark side.” I may retell your story to them – individually – and talk about it. Let’s go into these years with our eyes open. Thanks for your encouragement – this article and others. Very real, very fresh, very transparant. We don’t need to read about a “Super Hero YP” with no flaws or at least all of them air brushed out so we don’t see. I know this was a bit more than you were asking and I’m not sure if I even answered well.

    1. Thanks Jeff. I actually love the fact that there are youth workers who have entered my kids’ lives and become mentors and “heroes” for them. I always welcome these positive adult mentors, because I remember what a difference other adults made in my life when I was a teenager.

  3. I’m at a similar place in the journey – a youth pastor with my own kids ages 17, 16, 11, 10 – who currently don’t laugh as much or as easily at my sense of humor. We need to keep learning new ways of how to touch the heart of our children as they mature and change, not giving up the influence and personality we bring to their lives, but learning to say and do less at times, especially during their teenage years.

  4. “SBD” lol I get it! Your funny! 🙂

    Your not alone. While I haven’t experienced it with all of my children, one definitely is in that stage. As hard as it is, and as personal as it feels, I try not to take it personal. (and I know they are not trying to be intentionally mean about it)

    Usually rude and hateful behavior is not well received in the household. But knowing the power of the “dark side”, I usually continue with the status quo and try to overlook the snippiness. From time to time though we do set the child down and have a conversation about it, and things look up for a little bit.

    Seeing how I am usually the adult that the kids in the youth group talk to, it’s always been a concern of mine for my own children of who they would talk to. So from time to time, I may give the “cool” adult an inside track on a conversation to have with one of my children as the opportunity arises. The adult usually takes their cue very well and finds a way to just get into a conversation with the child. This system has worked well for me, and like Starla, I am appreciative of those willing to pour into my children as well.

  5. Not being “funny anymore” was realized shortly after my 13 y/o daughter had me buy our tickets into the Monmouth County Fair and then said “Goodbye, Dad” as she walked off with her girlfriends. Ouch.

  6. Your article is proof that teenagers should be fed to the sharks at birth. Unfortunatly we live in Nebraska and have a real shortage of sharks. Our oldest is 34 and youngest is 14 with 5 in between. You are so right about the “Dark Side”, Expearanced it with each one of them and the youngest is about to disapear now. Good news is that they do emerge. So my advise to you less expearanced teenager parents is try to keep ’em alive, cus if you do kill ’em, you can’t eat ’em.

  7. I’m on my third with that issue. I’ve thought about it from the persepctive that at the time they stop laughing at our jokes etc. is basically when the really begin their autonomy from us, and need to “push” us away for a time. They have been in a process of doing this, but I found that about 1/4 to 1/2 way thru 9th grade, this begins to happen, and they return near either the end of 11th grade or start of 12th grade. (Depends on your situation, etc.) Then they are facing going out on their own, and no matter what they say, there is a bit of separation anxiety, so the come back to cling to that nest one more time. Now that I have this all figured out, I don’t let it bother me that we drive to school in complete silence, headphones on my daughter to drown out any emissions from my vocal chords.

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