Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools!

I have a confession to make: April Fools’ Day turns me into a bit of a conniving goofball. There’s just something delightful about a holiday that’s all about embracing silliness and childish pranks, especially when the rest of the year I’m locked into the role of Responsible Adult. I make the appointments and organize the bedroom cleaning and help the boys with their homework. I replace torn socks and and make sure the pantry and fridge are stocked with sensible and nourishing staples. I am The Mom.

But once a year I get a little goofy. I plan silly surprises and “gotcha!” moments for the boys in my world (well, except for the dog… I don’t think he’d understand). This year’s holiday tributes looked like this:
  • Last night, I sneaked into my 14-year-old’s room and discovered, to my delight, that his alarm clock has an “alarm 2” switch. So without disturbing his usual morning settings, I was able to program a surprise pre-dawn awakening by the Spanish language station set to full volume. ("Bueno, los campistas, la subida y el brillo, y no se olvide de traer sus botas. Es cooooold hacia fuera allí hoy!")*
  • Every year I find at least one fabulously freaky item while I’m surfing the web for Christmas gifts in the fall (check out sites like Last year, it was a toilet monster. This year, it was this fabulous shower curtain (see photo). The shadowy figure is a permanent feature! I see it as a perfect cross between Psycho and Poltergeist.
  • I switched the hand soap in the kitchen and the boys’ bathroom with canola oil, thinking the smeary experience would at least elicit some grudging boyish respect because of the grossness factor. The joke was on me, though, because nobody noticed. The boys just smeared oil on their hands and went about their business nicely moisturized. [Note: backfiring tricks are not unprecedented. When Caden was five or six, I tucked a second-hand Barbie into bed with each of my sleeping sons on the night of March 31st. When Caden came downstairs the next morning, he was stroking her hair and calling her Stephanie.]
  • Not wanting to leave Eric out of the fun, I sneaked out in the night and tucked bubble wrap under his rear tires, hoping that the resulting noise would give him a jolt as he wondered what he-of-the-perfect-driving-record had hit. It would probably have been more startling if the bubble wrap hadn’t been bright pink and the morning paper hadn’t landed right next to the rear of the car. Ah, well, at least he felt included.
  • While the boys slept, I covered the top part of their bedroom doors with newspaper and filled the resulting pocket with packing peanuts. When they opened their doors in the morning, each boy was greeted with a snowy avalanche. That was a short-lived triumph, however, since “Responsible Mom” is the one who had to clean up all of that drifting Styrofoam (that, and my older son returned the favor by covering my bed in the flighty stuff). Note to self: no messy pranks next year.
  • Caden’s lunch contained a “candy” surprise. I carefully opened the end of a bag of M-n-Ms and poured out (and enjoyed) the candy, refilling the package with dried kidney beans and gluing the end closed. The prank was perfectly undetectable! I think his friends at lunch were more amused than my M-n-M-less ten-year-old, though. I had to pony up an actual treat after school to make peace with the jilted candy-craver.
  • While the boys were at school, I changed the home page on their web browser to I mean, what 14-year-old boy doesn’t want to gaze at Justin Beiber as soon as he logs on?
  • The final twist to the day was the dinner, which I always try to make as “April Foolish” as possible. This year’s menu was a sort of course reversal. The “fish sticks” and “peas and carrots” on their dinner plates were actually cereal-coated wafer cookies and hand-shaped Jolly Rancher chews and Starburst candies. The “cupcakes”, on the other hand, were made of meat loaf topped with pink-tinted mashed potatoes. Yummy! 

How does the rest of the family respond to this annual frivolity from Mom? My ten-year-old looks forward to April Fools’ Day almost like it’s Christmas. He giggles his way through the day, glancing suspiciously around door frames and asking frequently if there are more tricks on the way. My older son—at least this year—suddenly finds the whole thing embarrassing and mildly contemptible. (“Oh great, Mom, ‘April Fools’. That’s hilarious.”) But I persist. I’m hoping that when my kids are older, they’ll remember that once a year (at least) Mom was more than just that person who made them brush their teeth.

So... what should I do next year?
* Apologies to actual Spanish speakers if Google Translate mangled the DJ's line from Groundhog’s Day. My son, a first-year Spanish student, couldn't help me on this one.