This is Jolly at about 6mths old.
His giggle was pure liquid joy – and the entire family spent an inordinate amount of time entertaining him, purely so we could hear it just-once-more.
As he has grown, his laugh has grown with him – tickle him now at the grand old age of 11, and you can still hear that throaty, abandoned infectious giggle guaranteed to make a whole room smile.
However, he does seem to have an issue with volume – he really does only have two levels; LOUD or off.
And recently whilst Minecrafting with his brothers using Skype I heard Boy tell Jolly off
“Ssshhh! Your laugh is too LOUD!”
And it made me a bit sad.
For when I was around 10, I was on holiday with my family. My sister, the super-cool 17yr old, was with us, and on this particular day was in fine ‘unimpressed teen’ mode. This was the one person in all the world I wanted to be if I could. I was guided by her in all things, this shining star of style (this WAS the 80’s. She wore lace in her badly-permed hair, and numerous layers of sloppy joes over tight short skirts. I know – impeccable) and sheer confidence. She was always smiling, fearless in a fight and hilariously gobby as only an Essex girl can be.
Transpose that day to this, and she would have been buried in the corner of a room with her phone in hand, furiously tapping away, earphones plugged in, drowning out her impossible family. As it was the dark ages, however, she was simply reading. Sulkily.
I walked into the room, laughing merrily at I-know-not-what, keen to tell her just how funny it was…
She didn’t even raise her eyes from the book; but before I could draw breath after my hilarious hooting she tutted and dismissed me with
“Your laugh is so LOUD! Just turn it down, will you?”
Over sensitive, perhaps, but her comment stabbed me – and I immediately moderated my laugh. I just couldn’t let it roar out of me the way it had before,could I? It was clearly offensive to other people. How could I have not known I was laughing incorrectly?
I was honestly mortified.
And it took me a long long time – genuinely years and years – before I learned to relax and let it go.
Now, of course, I laugh as loud as I want (which is probably inconsiderately loud), and I don’t care who hears me.
But that tiny little throwaway comment (that she’d be horrified to know I took to heart) really stayed deep inside like a splinter of glass. Hard and shiny.
So whilst I will frequently tell Jolly to talk more quietly, shout less, be calmer… I will never ever not once allow anyone to tell him his laugh is too loud.
Instead I spend my days trying to prod and poke and trip it out of him. That laugh, the sound of his Happy, is far too precious to allow anyone to mess up.