Somewhere between “shameless” and “indifferent to ridicule” there lives a definition of me.
When people learn new things about me, I seldom feel awkward they now are blessed with this newfound information.
For instance, readers, I enjoy watching ASMR relaxation videos where the subject gets a face massage from a renowned barber or masseuse.
I find it relaxing.
I hope we can still be friends.
Maybe my inability to feel nervous about public stuff like this is a personality flaw. I like to think of it as proactively sculpting my life as an open book.
I just hope and pray the way I live gains acceptance from enough people who I am lucky enough to call a friend.
When it comes to parenting my goofballs, I do care immensely about acceptance. I want my kids to not just like me as some sort of happenstance roommate, but genuinely love that I am there.
When my oldest, Cooper, was two and the only child around, part of cultivating this affection was making him laugh…often…as loud as he could. One of my “tools” for garnering affection—and in turn, temporary acceptance—was turning to an arsenal of ridiculous fake characters that lived in my head.
As a writer, creating different characters comes naturally. I tried out a number of quirky-voiced characters with Cooper, who had mixed reviews.
And then, one day giving Cooper a bath, I introduced “The Hands.”
Allow me to introduce you, as well.
Imagine, if you will, forming your left hand and right hand into talking puppets. Their voices can be best described as Kermit the Frog working his way through anger management.
Left Hand is the jokester hell-bent on raising Right Hand’s collective blood pressure in a series of tricks, gaffes or other misdirections.
Right Hand is the straight man (or hand, I suppose) in this comic duo. He’s a people-pleaser, who often is caught with his pants around his collective ankles by Left Hand’s tricks.
You know…if hands had ankles.
Or wore pants.
The punchlines were mostly about overindulging in food, funny-sounding names (who doesn’t like a good Walla, Walla, Washington reference?) and prop gags like accidentally mistaking a glass of water for a bowl of ghost chili peppers.
The comedy pairing became an instant hit with Cooper. He was soon asking every day to talk to The Hands to participate in their brand of age-appropriate shenanigans.
Soon, The Hands became such a staple of comedy relief in the house, that I had an identity crisis: is Cooper having a great, fun time with me or The Hands? Cooper understood they were attached to, and voiced by, yours truly, right?
However, when we would venture out into public, I found myself becoming very self-conscious about voicing our favorite two characters. When the people were out, The Hands tended to vanish—along with the level of fun for Coop.
Recently, when Cooper and I arrived at the grocery store, we were fresh off of a 15-minute adventure with The Hands. When it was time to get out and walk to the store, he asked The Hands to continue their insanely ridiculous banter.
Me: “OK, not right now. It’s time to go into the store. The Hands need to go away.”
I began to stammer out an answer that sounded like the sorriest excuse. I talked about other people not understanding who The Hands were and making too much noise while people shopped and on and on with this line of thinking.
In short, I was talking out of a part of me other than my hands.
What was I afraid of? After all, The Hands brought nothing but happiness and a diversion to playfulness. Isn’t that a gift to impart on the world?
While thinking about this ordeal, my sons took the courageous step I couldn’t until this point. They created their own The Hands, mimicking my change of voice, talking to other shoppers with them as they strolled by.
No, they do not have names yet.
Yes, they are as zany as you think they might be.
Most importantly, I continue to learn from kids. Their imagination should be encouraged, unabated and unobstructed. If this means showcasing The Hands in plain view, for all to see, I believe that is growth as a parent.
Moreover, my kids new characters not only validates my own two wacky hands, but is without a doubt the best thing could’ve happened since I created them.
I know my The Hands cast has allowed them to bust a gut plenty of times over the years, but their The Hands are the real gift.
And a reminder I need. If I want to sculpt my life as an open book, it starts with bringing joy to the people who live in my very home—regardless of looking funny to others.
After all, any laughs at me are jealousy they never thought of the idea, right?
It’s an amazing reminder about learning as a parent. The second I think I know most of the content, my goofballs remind me that the best of parents are always still learning—oftentimes directly from their kids.
Here is my promise to you, Cooper and Milo and the rest of America: moving forward, The Hands shall not be hidden from embarrassment. No sorry excuses. They are a gift—one that has already sprouted four new characters to pass down to the next generation.
There is no need to be embarrassed if it delivers even one ounce of happiness.
No worries. Hands up.
And if I do feel a tinge of self-awareness, I am reminded that I have a few relaxation videos to fall back on.
Josh Farnsworth is a husband, father of goofballs Cooper and Milo, goofball himself, and award-winning writer and columnist living in Worcester. He can be reached for column ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.