I watched “The Dark Knight” recently, trying to get caught up on all of the plot lines of the first two Batman movies before going to see “The Dark Knight Rises,” and while watching I was hit kind of hard by a revelation. Actor Heath Ledger’s character, the Joker, used a tagline of “Why so serious?” as part of his creepiness for the film. With Ledger dying shortly after making that film, the phrase struck a chord with me.
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I’ve been living life far too seriously. I know that in a way, you have to. Success comes from structure, a base plan and a whole lot of ambition and hard work. But we have to remember to have fun along the way. I too often forget this. Heath Ledger and the Joker reminded me.
We spend way too much time worrying about how to pay the bills, making the right decisions at work, how best to raise our kids, and we don’t focus enough on just enjoying it all.
Over the weekend my daughter wanted to go play outside with the neighbor kids. I immediately started to think of everything that could go wrong with the scenario. First, I’d have to be out there monitoring. She’s 4 years old and I’m not ready to wave her goodbye and send her off into the neighborhood where I can’t make sure she’s safe (I’ll get there, I promise). I was enjoying my day off inside on the couch and I didn’t want to give that up. Second, she’d fallen off her bike a month ago and received four stitches under her chin. That experience rattled us both as parents and I’ve been gun shy to throw her on her bike since. What spawned my daughter wanting to go outside in the first place was watching our neighbor teach his daughter how to ride her bike with the training wheels taken off. She is 7, though. I worried my daughter would want the same thing, and I’d be rushing to the emergency room for another round of stitches.
I thought about the Joker and what he’d do. He’d ask me, “Why so serious, Patrick?” I’d rattle off 100 legitimate reasons, to which he’d laugh hysterically at them all and then drive his truck through the front door of my house to set my daughter free. I decided to just open the front door instead and was pleasantly surprised with the result.
Not only did my daughter have some of the most fun she’s had since that bike accident, I had a lot of fun I would have never expected.
As the kids played hide and seek, drew on the driveway with chalk and chased each other around the yard for no particular reason, we chatted with the neighbors. I was asked if I had a football we could throw around while we chatted. I did. We played catch for a few minutes, which inspired the teenagers down the road to do the same with their own football. It only made sense to challenge them. So I, my friend Justin and my neighbor challenged three teenagers to a game of street football. My concern for my daughter falling onto concrete shifted to my own. I hadn’t played football in the street since I was a kid, and I pictured myself now faceplanting onto the street trying to make a catch. But the thought made me laugh. “Why so serious?” This was a game of fun, fun I hadn’t had in years.
We won, thankfully, by quite a bit. We tried taking it easy on them until one of their fathers joined their team and made it four against three. At that point our pride kicked in and now I’m still sore two days later from the experience.
It took me letting go of my worries for the day to experience the fun I was depriving my kid. For a few hours I didn’t think about bills, what we were going to have to make for dinner, or the emergency room. I let go like I’d imagine the Joker would, without the crime of course. And I learned more than anything that I need to do that a lot more often.
Patrick Ibarra is the managing editor of the Mountain Democrat.