From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul


Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.

Bob Newhart

“Mommy, I’ll help,” offered my middle son, Andy. “Want me to clean the van?”

“That’s great,” I thanked my four-year-old. As the young mother of five active children, I welcomed assistance wherever I found it. “Sure, why not?” I approved with only a moment’s hesitation.

A joyful Andy set to work.

He dragged the vacuum to the carport. He gathered grocery sacks to collect loose toys and garbage bags for candy wrappers and dirty tissues. And he slammed the house door—both coming and going—as he set about his self-appointed task.

Thirty minutes later, Andy bounced into the house. “I’m all finished, Mommy.” He tugged my arm. “Come see the van!”

As he dragged me outside, Andy admitted he did have one problem.

“What?” I asked.

“The vacuum bag broke open and sprayed dirt all over the van,” he sighed in disgust. “But don’t worry, I fixed it.”

He pointed, “See, I took the garden hose and washed it all out.”

I looked—and gasped.

The custom-finished interior of our big white van dripped in water. Plush, baby-blue carpeted walls and floor oozed. Upholstered captain’s chairs . . . color-coordinated velvet curtains . . . all flooded.

But—discounting the pools of water—the van was as neat as a pin. Andy had done the job he set out to do.

“Well,” I tried to ignore my rising hysteria, “you got it clean, all right!” I encouraged the chuckle I felt and let it float to the surface and gurgle out. Soon, laughter flooded my dismay.

The rest of the day, I soaked up water with bath towels and left the doors wide open. It took weeks to totally dry out. Admittedly, the van was never quite the same; eventually mold took over in places where water could hide.

But now, twenty years later, Andy still works with vehicles: He’s an elite technician for a Mercedes-Benz dealership, where he has the trust of customers and service managers. He is a master at what he does.

And I’d like to think I played a tiny role in that. After all, instead of being a wet blanket, I managed to overlook the flood and see the rainbow. Perhaps that’s what gave him the confidence to try and succeed.

Rita M. Pilger

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