(NOTE: Dr. Palmer was my pastor during grad student days, and will be featured in my as-yet-unwritten-but-sure-to-be-on-Oprah memoir called "CHANGED! How A Bengali Hindu Immigrant Morphed Into A Presbyterian Minister's Wife.")
Hours of sipping chai and sharing chuckles are an essential part of my South Asian cultural heritage. That's probably why one of my favorite scenes in Mel Gibson's Passion is extra-biblical -- the brief clip of Jesus and Mary having a water fight. Our Lord had to be the kind of person you could tease, because nothing shatters barriers between cultures, generations, and genders more effectively than self-deprecatory, intimacy-building wit.
Which brings me to parenting. We older folks take things so SERIOUSLY. When it's time to lighten up and use humor to connect with our teens, here are three guidelines to remember:
You can't get mean. Even when they start calling you "Mom-Deeza" after you choke up at the booting of American Idol's one voluptuous woman of color.When all else fails, why not challenge them to a "YO MAMA" joke-a-thon? Oh wait. You can't do that, can you? Because you'll end up making fun either of yourself ... or your wife. And believe me, guys, she won't be laughing.
You can't be middle school. Don't go for a bathroom-humor cheap laugh. It's not pretty coming out of a middle-aged mouth. You can, however, indulge in a giggle at their best efforts.
You can't manipulate. Don't use joking as a way to control. They'll see through it every time.