Sunday, April 5, 2015

April Fools Was No Joke

I've decided next year we're boycotting April Fools Day.

Let me just say right up front I have never been a big fan of the "holiday." I don't really enjoy tricks and jokes and pranks on people. I usually end up feeling really, really sorry for them. It wasn't until a year or two ago I began to wonder if part of my aversion to most kinds of trickery, and especially April Fools Day, might have something to do with the "fun prank" some relatives decided to play on me and my dad when I was about 8 or 9. Let's just say it involved pretending a car that someone had jacked up to work on had actually come off the jack and was crushing the person underneath, until everyone popped up with, "Just kidding!"

Yeah. Hardy-har. I was in hysterics with my heart pounding out of my chest.

So I'm a real dud when it comes to pranks, and on the flip side Anna loves April Fools Day. She claims it's one of her favorite holidays (really?). She really loves teasing almost anytime, and the fact that Ethan is so gullible makes it easier. Dan, like me, isn't big on jokes, and a while ago both of us got pretty annoyed when one sweltering evening she offered to bring us glasses of water -- only it turned out to be vinegar.

This April Fools Day Anna was super-motivated to fully participate. We heard her rummaging around in her room and the bathroom the evening before. At one point she was still at work on...something...when she was supposed to be in bed, sleeping. I had told her not to go too crazy. I also had told her she had to clean up all of her messes.

In the morning I found some kind of lovely floury, crusty concoction smeared on several door handles. Then Ethan came bounding down the stairs.

"It's April Fools!" he announced. I knew they'd been talking about that at school. In fact, the kids were supposed to tell some sort of joke when they wrote their "short share" that morning.

Ahhh, Ethan and jokes. This has been a process. Humor in general is a process. It's not that Ethan doesn't like to laugh. He can be hysterical sometimes and get silly and giggly himself. It's just that he usually finds different things funny. Some of it's just typical boy stuff -- of course he's going to think slapstick, people falling or throwing pies at each other or whatever is going to be funnier than some sort of subtle, sarcastic humor. But this telling jokes thing? That's been interesting.

"What kind of joke are you going to tell for short share?" I asked.

"Mama, what happened to the watch that someone sat on?"


"It was on time. Get it? Because the watch was time and someone was sitting on it? Someone in my class said that."

"Ahhha, funny." It seemed he hadn't said it quite right, but okay. I got the gist. I thought I'd remind him of a joke I'd told him so he'd have one in mind to tell. I was hoping to maybe steer him from a knock-knock joke, because he just doesn't quite get how to tell them yet. Not that the other first graders would really care.

"Ethan, remember the train joke?"

"Yeah...what did the train say to the bubble gum?"

"'s what did the train carrying bubble gum say?"


Yeah, there you go. Funny. Ha-ha. Eh.

Anna came into the kitchen. "Ethan, I have a cookie for you," she said way too happily. He grabbed it and I waited to see how this would play out. He started chewing. He didn't flinch.

"The frosting is toothpaste!" Anna yelled out hysterically. Ethan shrugged. "I like it," he said, and kept eating. I have the feeling he swallows toothpaste for fun whenever he's brushing.

Now, this would have been the time that as an attentive parent, I should have stopped Anna in her tracks and banned anymore pranks involving food. But Ethan seemed unscathed, and I began fuming about the messes I was now finding in the bathroom and hallway due to Anna's shenanigans. "I thought I told you to clean this up!" I called after her.

Then I began ruminating about April Fools Day again. About my loathing of pranks. I started thinking about that stupid day when I was a kid and thought my uncle was dying under the car. Anna was prattling on while I was failing at Parenting 101 by only half-paying attention. We were rushing to get ready and I thought I heard her say something about bringing another cookie to school. And maybe something about chocolates. She mentioned putting a tiny bit of toothpaste inside. Again, some sort of "Danger, Will Robinson!" alarm should have been going off in my head. Perhaps my subconscious had decided that toothpaste wasn't such a bad prank after all compared to pretending someone's body had been mercilessly crushed. Whatever the case, I dropped her off at school and went on my way.

Two hours later, the phone rang. The school. Darn. I wondered -- was Anna sick?

No, that would have been much less humiliating. It's always a good sign when the teacher nervously starts with, "I really hate making these calls, but..."

Apparently Anna had handed out a toothpaste-filled cookie to one friend and a number of toothpaste-infused chocolates to a good deal of others, which was quite obviously what she'd been working on the night before.

"I'm all for a good joke, but I had told the kids they couldn't do anything involving food," the teacher was saying. "With all the food allergies nowadays, and especially with it being toothpaste, which they're not even supposed to ingest..."

Ahhh, the mortification. It wasn't just that my kid had done something wrong and I'd gotten the infamous "call from the teacher" for the first time ever. It was that some part of my mind had known about it and just hadn't done anything. Another Parenting Fail.

So then came the apologies and promises that we'd talk to her and it wouldn't happen again. Then I hung up the phone and scraped crusty flour mixtures off the doorknobs and wiped up the toothpaste evidence in the bathroom. I wondered how Ethan's joke had gone. I hoped he hadn't done something like attempt the "joke" he'd made up about a gun and who it was going to get.

We are not doing April Fools Day next year.

That is all.

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