When my daughter was little, I used to jump out and frighten her. You know, to amuse myself. I’d send her upstairs to get ready for bed and, as she brushed her teeth, hide in a dark corner of her room. When she’d walk in, I’d spring up, and yell.
She would scream and go tearing down the hallway. My wife would come in to comfort her and give me the obligatory, “what is wrong with you?” Olivia would slowly stop shaking and then say:
Do it again.
She loved it. In fact, that year she made a Father’s Day card at school. Under “I like it most when Dad…”, she wrote “…scares me.” Seriously. I expected the teacher to call us about that. I can’t tell if I’m happy or concerned she didn’t.
The truth is that she was never fully scared because she did the same to me. I’d be alone in a room and she’d sprint up behind me with a scream. I’d always jump. Most times it was a fake jump. Sometimes it was a real jump. One time, it was a terrifying jump that I prefer not to remember. I was both scared and impressed.
Our prank exchange has been even more serious. To this day, she still talks about how she wrapped my pillow in tin foil and then put the case back on. For a few minutes that night, I thought I was going insane. She was quite proud of that one.
I’ve always been like this in my house. I don’t know what it is but there’s something fun about messing with the rest of the family. Sometimes it’s a simple as taping the remotes, keys, and hairspray to the ceiling on April Fool’s Day. It keeps everyone smiling, especially during the craziest of times.
Out of all of us, Lucas might have the best sense of humor for these pranks. Since he’s non-verbal with Autism, we rely on more physical comedy to get a pop from him. It does. He loves it. More than anyone, he benefits from my over-the-top annoying humor.
Usually, during one of his meltdowns, I will sit him down on my lap and hold him there like an octopus, so he can’t run off in a frenzy and get hurt. I wrap my arms around his body and try to calm him while he struggles to run away. As he gets more and more annoyed, he will fight harder and cry louder. So I will let go.
As soon as he does, I will yank him back by the waist and yell out, “Where are you going?!” in a high-pitched voice, wrap him up in my arms, and tickle him. This repeats until he’s gone from tears to laughter. It amazes him that I won’t timidly give in to his tantrums and actually mock him in the process. No explanation needed. He doesn’t need words to get this joke. The fact that he understands the humor is evident in his hysterics.
Whether it’s throwing my body down to imitate his no-bedtime tantrum before he can do it himself or making him raise his arms for a “hip hip horray” only to tickle his belly, I know that this is the truest way I get through to my son. When we’re sharing one of these unspoken moments of absurdity, we’re on the same page more than ever.
When it comes to pranking my wife, though, I have a partner in planning. My daughter is always on board and seemingly morphs into a Vaudeville villain, twirling her mustache with a cackle. She pushes me to think ahead. Last year, with April Fool’s Day in such close proximity to Mother’s Day, she made sure we ordered fake ants with her incoming gifts. Those plastic little guys are still popping up to this day. Best investment ever.
I don’t necessarily invent all of these pranks. Most are stolen from others. The trick with stretching clear tape across the bathroom door frame when someone is inside? Did it. Each time, I would set my phone up to snap a video of my wife entangled in packing tape. I’d giggle and hide in the distance. Know what I ended up recording?
A hundred videos of her tearing the tape down and saying, “Nice try.”
…And one really awesome video of her walking face-first into it. My cheer at the end was akin to winning the lottery. It’s enough to make me question my priorities.
They know to never listen if I ask them to smell their food or accept a Hurtz Donut. They know a lot of things to never do because of my juvenile outlook on life. No matter how annoying these tricks may be, though, they all have one thing in common. Everybody smiles. Maybe they smile because they think I’m funny. Maybe they smile because they think I’m lame. Maybe they smile because they can’t believe that I’m still doing this when it’s clear that everyone is exhausted and annoyed. Either way, they smile. As the Dad, I consider that part of my job.
I’m happy to know that this mentality won’t end anytime soon. I’m not saying that in a whimsical way as if to imply that my love for practical jokes will never end. It won’t, but that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying it literally won’t end anytime soon because when we moved into this new house, there was a miniature closet under the stairs that you need to crawl into. Olivia insisted that she would be hiding out in there, even though we said it wasn’t a great idea. For now, it’s inaccessible because there are boxes in the way. Soon, though, it will be clear.
So, I went inside and placed a large mirror facing the door. The moment she opens it, she’ll see the reflection of someone else crawling towards her and freak out.
That might happen in a month. It might happen in a year. It might happen when she’s 25. Either way, it’s a long con and I have time. One day, it will happen and, when it does, no matter how old I am, I’m going to laugh like a nutcase.