In our home, humor is appreciated. With seven kids, 3 dogs and a dozen of cousins running around, you need a good sense of humor. My oldest son especially has this sense of weird micheviousness about him. His wit gets him into lots of trouble in classes (because he always is making wisecracks) but it also makes him able to enjoy a good joke.
I remember one year, his tooth fairy was a little late in coming because he didn’t write her a note. Frankly, he was too old to pretend to believe in a tooth fairy by this time, but he staunchly insisted that she needed to come and that he would write the note soon. I was out with my girlfriends one day, and came across this shrivelled up fairy on sale. It was really ugly and so I bought it. That night I put it by his pillow with a note that basically said “I am sorry you have not written me a note for so long. I waited and waited and while I waited I got very old. As my time on earth is almost over I thought I would have a statue of me made for you to always keep and remember”. When he woke up that morning and saw this ugly figurine he gave me this “Is this for real look?” I just laughed and laughed and laughed. After his shock, he laughed and showed his friends the ugly gift he got from his tooth fairy. His friends were kind enough not to mention that fairies weren’t real and they all laughed before throwing the figure down and running off to play. As they left, I saw my 4 year old daughter grimacing at the fairy and then she said “Mom, I sure hope this fairy dies before my tooth falls out!”. I still chuckle at that joke and every now and then when the ugly fairy pops up we all laugh.
With this in mind, it is no wonder my kids love April Fools day. I have worked hard on helping them learn the difference between a mean prank and a nice one. They all have to okay their pranks with me before they proceed just to be safe. I am constantly reminding them that pranks should always be used to make the person being pranked upon feel happier. This take planning, but so far it has worked great in our home. Last year we had a blast together. We stayed up really late the night before and played a ton of pranks on their uncles and aunties. They had a hoot.
Here are some of the pranks we pulled:
1) We sprayed cars’ with fake snow
2) Put a for sale sign up on my brother-in-laws new suburban asking only $1000
3) We made fake cupcakes out of spray foam and cocking
5) We toilet papered one of the cousins back yard
6) We filled an elderly neighbors freshly turned garden with fake flowers
7) We made home made spaghetti and sauce out of cookie dough and jam, and brought it over to our neighbors.
It was one of the funnest outings I have had with my kids for a long time. They laughed so hard and I have to admit that it made me feel like a teen-ager again (I used to do such fun silly things).
Not to let my kids down, the next day was General Conference, and for their ‘conference feast’ I played all sorts of tricks.
1) I put makeup on all of them when they were sleeping 🙂
2) I opened their chips bags and filled them up with carrots, resealing them so they didn’t know until they opened the bag.
3) I cut their banana in pieces using a needle (so when they opened it it was already sliced).
4) I made them jello drinks.
6) I actually even hallowed out some eggs, and taping the bottom hole shut, filled the egg with jello!!
For me it was so fun dodging their pranks
1) They put food coloring on my toothbrush (my toothbrush was green for months).
2) They stuffed their Daddies shoes with toilet paper so it felt really tight when he put them on.
3) They turned the toilet different colors (thanks to easter egg dye).
4) They froze water in the breakfast bowls and then covered the top with cereal so when we went to eat our food we hit ice.
Our jokes became the talk of their friends and cousins. This year all the youth and kids came to me for advice on new pranks to pull on new
‘victims’ friends. Some of our new ones to try are:
1) I got my toothpaste tube filled up with salad dressing-yuck-he was supposed to do that one on his siblings NOT me!!
2) My 10 year old son made a pan of Brownies for breakfast. He made a treasure map and when the kids get them they are going to see a pan of ‘Brown E’s’ 🙂
3) We are buying some oreo cookies and replacing a bunch of the middles with toothpaste 🙂
4) This morning, when I woke up the whole living room was turned around, couches upside down, picture frames backwards ect. . . (they thought of that one all by themselves)!
5) For lunch I am making grilled cheese sandwiches out of white cake and icing.
6) For our neighbors we are going to hand out a plate of ‘sponge cake’ -a decorated cake with a sponge in the middle.
My sisters were wondering why I spend time on such foolishness. While I admit, I really love tricking my kids, it is actually more work than I normally would want to do. The reason why I do do it, and why I am going to start planning better for such shenanigans in the future (my kids are getting older and tired of the normal tricks) is because of the bonding that happens with my kids and I over it.
Having them come to me in secret to get a new idea, or share with delight in what they figured out themselves is priceless. Hearing them laugh at their sweet tolerant uncles and aunts not only make my kids like their relatives better-it helps form a history of stories to share with each other in the future. Not only that, my kids’ friends have started to come to me for idea’s, which bonds their friends to me (which helps bond my kids to me 🙂 ) Like Gordon Nuefeld says, there is a ‘collecting dance’ parents and adults need to constantly do with their kids in order to keep them close. This dance takes time, effort and lots of ‘thinking ahead’. While this dance is definitely worth doing, it can be exhausting, especially with 7 kids. I have found though, that the more effort I put into this dance, the more I realize that Sister Hinkley was right when she counselled to her daughter that “It is the relationship that matters most”, and the easier parenting gets. Unfortunately I don’t always remember this.
Too often I let undone chores, messy school work, untrained dogs and ‘a problem to be solved, matter more than a person to be loved’. Not only does focusing on ‘outcomes’ with my kids wreck havoc on our relationship, it also makes parenting harder to do, which ends up causing a cycle of destructive parenting ‘skills’ to be used (time out, grounding, missed privileges ect. . .). When I watch an amazing mother at work, like Michelle Dugger for instance, I notice constantly the kindness and love in which those mothers are using when directing and interacting with their kids. Often I am more like a military sergent, “do this”, “do that”, “not good enough” and “hurry up” are said way too much in my home. To help combat that I try hard to follow the Arbinger Parenting Pyramid-repeating often “It is the relationship that matters most”.
In Abridgers Parenting Pyramid, it is important to remember that if what you are doing is not working well, the answer lies in the level below it. For instance, if you find that your kids aren’t wanting to be ‘taught’ by you, you need to work on your relationship instead of looking for more ways to teach. Or, if you find that your relationship with your child is poor, you need to focus working on your relationship with the child’s significant other first-which in my case would be their father. When the problems on the level below are solved, often you will find that the problems on the level of concern have been taken care of. While very simple, this pyramid has been one of the building blocks of my parenting philosophy. It has helped me diagnose the ‘real issues’ with my kids when nothing else seemed to work. It also has reminded me over and over the important role taking care of my relationship with my Heavenly Father through daily scripture study, it reinforces my desires to make sure my husband and I are strongly connected, and it is a constant reminder for me to take time to build my relationship with my children (instead of constantly focusing on their mistakes and correcting them).
April Fools day-or pulling harmless fun pranks is a great way to build these relationships as long as every one plays nice. We have some very clear rules about playing jokes.
1) Can’t wreck anything
2) Can’t hurt anyone
3) Must be something that makes the recipient feel good, and laugh. Some jokes are funny for some people and not so for others, we talk about each person we prank to be sure they will like it.
With these rules, my family has formed a great tradition of laughter, creativity and fun.