A few days ago, my eleven year-old was joking with his friend’s nine year-old sister. He told her, “Hey, you want to hear a joke?” She replied, “Yes”. He said, “You. Your parents made you as a joke.” She went and asked her Mom if she was a joke. Now, my friend texted me and said, “Can you talk to your son? He said something inappropriate to my daughter.
I had a chat with my son who felt bad about what he had done. He kept apologizing to me. I explained to him that his joke may have been okay in his social circle amongst his friends but was not appropriate for a nine year-old girl. I told him this was a learning experience.
Of course, then I started my usual self-introspection.
I realized that life was a balance – a balance of four experiences. Let me explain. I don’t think my son or for that matter, any other human would be able to know exactly when to crack a joke. So then you are faced with 1) saying the joke and having it misfire as in not being considered appropriate, 2) saying the joke and eliciting the response you were looking for, 3) not saying the joke because you don’t think it’s the optimal situation, and 4) not saying the joke because you are not sure of the audience/situation and then realizing you missed your chance to crack a joke.
The balance is having more of situations ‘2’ and ‘3’ and less of ‘1’ and ‘4’. The balance is not about knowing exactly when to say the joke every time. You cannot always read cues correctly.
I realized this is true for all of us. Learning to read and respond to social cues is a balance.
As for my son, as his repertoire of social experiences increases, I hope that he will for the most part learn to identify situations where he can behave appropriately.