The perfect knock-knock joke

There’s something about a knock-knock joke. Four-year-olds can’t get enough of them. This is God’s wrath on parents.

I don’t know what crime parents have committed to merit such a harsh punishment, but it must have been something really bad.

Tell a knock-knock joke to a four-year-old (which is something a sane person should never do) and he will assume that you made it up on the spot. Moreover, he will be so enchanted with your improvisational talent that he will begin to search for his own light of inspiration. He will start inventing his own knock-knock jokes, on the spot, just like you did.

Now, because you are insane, you are stuck with a four-year-old knock-knock joke salesman. You will be bombarded with impromptu nonsense, of which all you will understand are the words: “Knock. Knock.” And you will laugh. There is nothing funny about this; you will laugh nonetheless. You will laugh because you don’t have the heart not to laugh, and because you feel awkward about telling your kid to just shut up in public. Also, you are insane. It is mostly insane people who go around laughing when nothing funny is tickling their senses.

I, too, am insane. I did the unthinkable and told my son a knock-knock joke one carefree afternoon. Now, I endure marathons of comedy like this:

“Knock. Knock.”

“Who’s there?”

Banana.”

Mr. Banana comes to call

I was wondering if you were interested in a free estimate for house painting.

Banana who?”

Banana open the door.”

Mr. Banana gets impatient

For God’s sake, open the door! I’m getting ripe out here waiting.

And I laugh. I laugh heartily, as though my tin foil helmet is tickling the base of my neck. I laugh like I’ve finally gotten the straitjacket broken in so it doesn’t pinch like it used to do.

The other night, I was enduring a bombardment of such jokes when my son proved that at least one of us still clings to a tenuous grasp on sanity. Somehow, he hit upon the perfect knock-knock joke for a four-year-old. It summed up everything in five lines. It would have been a miserable failure of a joke if it had come from the mouth of anyone even a few years older. For a four-year-old, it was perfect – perfectly funny – because great humor is rooted in truth.

“Knock. Knock.”

Who’s there?”

I.”

I who?”

I have no idea what’s going on here.”

For a fleeting moment, I took off my straitjacket, exited my rubber room, and laughed at the most sanely funny thing in the world: truth.

Then, the normal barrage resumed, and I took shelter in my safe place.

Why are cows so smart?

I’ve seen online debates between people who hold that childlessness is the supreme lifestyle choice and those who espouse the blessings of children.

I’ve never joined these debates. I won’t try to convince people who really don’t want children to have children. Also, the reasons they list against having children: the expense, the disappearance of free time, stifled romance, sleep deprivation, etc., are all true. They are painfully, irrefutably true.

You can’t demonstrate the value of children by listing their virtues, nor condense what you get from your kids into bullet points. It’s magic that must be experienced:

On Saturday, we had two goals. My car needed an oil change and we wanted to attend a family activity at our university. I dropped my car off at the shop advertising an oil change and tire rotation for $21.99. My family picked me up and we went to the event.

We saw lots of animals. My wife and my son put their hands into the stomach of a living cow through a porthole cut into its side. Since cows and I have a checkered history, I kept my hands to myself.

Then we stood in a long line so the boy could milk a cow. Poor kid, when I was his age, I never had to wait in line to milk a cow. I got to milk cow after cow, no waiting. Those were the good old days, I guess.

girl and cow

In the old days, cows weren’t as well-educated as they are today. They hadn’t learned how to market themselves; hence, children could walk right up and milk them without waiting in line for an hour.

As we walked down a hallway decorated like an undersea panorama. I asked my son, “Why are fish so smart?”

“Why?”

“Because they’re always in schools.”

He walked a few feet and then asked. “Why are worms so smart?”

“I don’t know.”

“Because they go to worm school.”

I laughed the father’s obligatory laugh and soon forgot about jokes.

We were viewing lizards when the boy tugged my arm. “Daddy, why are cows so smart?”

There was 99% chance of cow school. “Why?”

“Because they go to cowllege.”

I laughed, because I was sincerely tickled. “Where did you hear that joke?”

He tapped his finger on his head. “In my own brain.”

 

getting ready to milk

Flashing a nervous smile in anticipation of his first experience with a cowllege girl.

 

On our way home, I called to ask about my car. “We couldn’t get the hood open,” the shop guy said, “so we couldn’t do anything.”

I do have a sticky hood latch, but it’s never thwarted mechanics before. Maybe it was finally kaput, or maybe those mechanics didn’t have my secret weapon: a four-year-old to help them.

I took the car home. My son and I had the hood up within five minutes.

How do I list this day to illustrate the awesomeness of children? I can’t. You have to live it.

I can’t prove the boy invented the cow joke. Before I had children, I would have thought there’s no way a four-year-old comes up with that. Now I believe it is absolutely possible.

Is there some magic power in a preschooler tugging on a hood release cable? Probably not. Yet, he tugged on it better than grown men could.

I’ve found faith in the genius of childhood. Maybe it’s not an important faith, as faiths go. It may even be a childlike faith, but that’s often the best kind. It reminds me of the amazing possibilities in life. I’m thrilled to have been part of the creation of the only little people who could bring me such faith. It’s the best thing I ever did.