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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How not to play an April Fools’ Day joke on your kids

With a Mommy-made quilt this awesome, you wouldn't want
to share either, especially at 4 a.m.
April Fools’ Day is a fun tradition for a lot of families as parents trick their kids, play funny jokes and get a few laughs. But if it’s not done right, it has the propensity to make a fool out of the foolers. We learned that the hard way this April Fools’ Day, bright and early. Strike that, it was too early to be bright.

So you don’t make our same mistake, I’m passing on our valuable experience along with an easy-to-follow list of steps not to take  when coming up with an April Fools’ Day joke.

1. Don’t come up with a joke while about to fall asleep
Things seem funnier when you’re tired. Also, when laying in bed, you tend to only be able to think of sleep. So as my wife and I were discussing what kind of jokes we could pull on the children, they all seemed to involve beds.

“Let’s move their mattresses so when they wake up they’ll be sleeping across the room.”

“No, that’s hard. Let’s move them all into the same bed.”

“No, they might wake each other up. Let’s move them into each other’s beds.”

“That could be funny; and we could switch around their pillows and blankets so they’d be really confused.”

“Yeah, and then we could tell them they were sleepwalking in the night.”

“OK, let’s do it.”

We forgot that tired children tend not to be able to take a joke.

2. Don’t mess with your children’s sleeping arrangements
Habit is a powerful thing, so if you start switching children around between beds, they’ll probably notice. And it won’t be on your time-frame.

We had a good laugh as we successfully switched our three older kids to other beds. It was still funny as we put the five-year-old girl in the crib, the 6-year-old boy in the toddler bed and the 2-year-old girl in the 5-year-old’s bed.

The slumbering children slept right through the transfers, and we had the brilliant idea to switch even their blankets around so that the boy would wake up under a pink quilt etc. In our finite wisdom, we decided not to switch around any of their special “ishies.” This is a family term that came from our oldest son not being able to pronounce the word “silky,” which he used to describe his favorite baby blanket as a toddler. Now all the kids inescapably use the word, and love their ishies to pieces even as they get older. We were pretty sure that would wreak havoc.

3. Don’t prep your joke the night before April Fools’ Day
This might have gone over had we not expected to last through a night rife with potty breaks and lightly sleeping children, which shoots us quickly to the next bullet point.

4. Don’t send your kids to bed without rigorous potty breaks
I’m saying you need to enforce bedtime potty breaks like you might enforce potty breaks before an eight-hour car trip where you will not  pull over. Like you’re fleeing from the cops to make it to the Canadian border before they find out it was you who slashed their tires.

5. Don’t be awoken by your children
This is an impossible step to follow in a house with an infant and three other kids. Be warned. 

4 a.m.
5-year old: “Why was I sleeping in the crib?”

Wifey: “Um, April Fools’!”

5-year old: “Why is my sister in my bed?”

Wifey: “April Fools'.”

5-year old: “I want my bed!”

The exclamation draws the little one in her bed’s attention, sparking a chain reaction I’m still dealing with now at 5:30 a.m. The 2-year-old toddles out with bleary eyes as the 5-year-old throws a fit about having her own bed, her own pillow and her own special quilt. As I unsuccessfully try to convince the older girl to sleep in her own bed with her sisters’ covers, daughter #2 takes matters in her own hands, trying to yank her older sister’s quilt off her still-sleeping oldest brother. This wakes him up, all-too aware that the only pink blanket on top of him is being extracted.

Him: “She’s trying to take the quilt!”

He seems oblivious of the switcheroo, despite seeming knowledgeable about the quilt. I notice he’s not laughing. I notice I’m not amused by the boy under the pink blanket sleeping in another bed.  It’s 4 a.m. after all.

4:30 a.m.
I grudgingly relent to all whining request for own beds, blankets, pillows, etc. muttering to myself “I’m going to kill April Fools’ Day” since I need a scapegoat for not following my yet-to-be-made how-not-to list. I admit I’m not always a pleasant person when suddenly forced to listen to hefty whining and squabbling in the middle of the night.

4:45 a.m.
I finally lay back down in a bed. It’s not mine. I’m hardwired awake and so is the 2-year-old next to me. I lay there for 15 minutes or so, trying to figure out what just went wrong. I come up with these five easy steps not to repeat next April Fools’ Day.

5 a.m.
I go get my computer, knowing I’m done sleeping for the night.

“Where’ you going?” the 2-year-old asks.

“I’m getting my computer; I’ll be right back.”

“OK,” comes her whispered reply. She follows me to get my computer anyway, diaper crumpling with each swaggering step in the now mostly silent night. 

5:50 a.m.
I’m finishing my blog post now. The little girl has made various escape attempts as I write this in her dark room. One time, I barely manage to catch her by the seat of her pants and drag her back to bed. She’s still not acting tired.

In other words, think about the consequences a little before you pull that April Fools’ Day joke. It might not be as funny as you think. In this case, I will take the fool moniker myself this year. Maybe my kids will somehow remember the joke fondly, but I doubt it.

All I know is that this year, the joke’s on me. Ha ha.

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