I used to love April Fool’s Day.When I was growing up I couldn’t stand the wait for April 1st. On April 1st my family couldn’t stand me. I pulled so many pranks on my siblings and my parents that they expected it, so it became an added challenge to not just think of a creative idea, but to then carry it out. I quite literally had to get up pretty early in the morning to pull one over on my old man. Either that or race home from school so I could set something up before my brother or sister got home.
After I became a teacher, I found myself further removed from the position of prankster. I had become the prankstee, so to speak.
A highlight was when I taped my sister’s phone to the ceiling. (Bragging about this to my daughters recently they assumed that when I said “phone” I meant something like an iPhone. I had to explain the phone was attached to the wall by a wire and it was heavy, so it didn’t stay up there too long. In retrospect, that prank might play better nowadays with the smaller phones.) But as I got older my desire to pull a prank went away. And after I became a teacher, I found myself further removed from the position of prankster. I had become the prankstee, so to speak. You never want to call a child in your class a liar, but April Fool’s Day turned into a day where I went against every teaching instinct I had. I turned a deaf ear to the protestations of the identical twins who claimed they weren’t pretending to be the other sibling. To this day I’m still not sure I was right. I was unsympathetic to the child who came limping in after recess complaining of an injury. Maybe she was hurt, but the five limpers before her who started running after passing me and shouting “April Fool’s!” made me less likely to believe the sixth.
Then, of course, there were the props that were either brought in or threatened to be brought in on April Fool’s Day. (“No, I do not think it would be funny if you left fake vomit on the lunchroom floor.”) And now my daughters have reached that age where they have started to make “TOP SECRET!” lists where they’ve brainstormed possible pranks. Home used to be my sanctuary on April Fool’s Day – a safe space where I knew I won after a long day of prank-dodging at school. At least until next year. The best years were when I could spend a prank-free day at home if April Fool’s fell on a Saturday. When I left my teaching career a few of the highlights included not having to prepare to write report cards, schedule parent conferences, or worry about what day of the week April 1st fell on the calendar. Now it didn’t matter if it was on a weekend, because the prank could come from inside the house! I’m not sure what the kids have planned this year. (The paper is “TOP SECRET!” after all, and they only let me see a fake prank list that led me to believe they were going to drink grape juice and pretend it was wine.) But they’ve been whispering about Polyjuice Potion, so maybe they’ll try to convince my wife and me they’re really one girl pretending to be the other, as though they prepared and drank the Harry Potter concoction. Which could be fun – it’s pretty clever. Which makes me kind of proud…because they certainly didn’t get the prank gene from their mother. And I have to admit – I did enjoy the collaborative aspects of the school pranks.
Like the time the fifth and sixth grades switched classrooms on the morning of April 1st a few years ago. They walked into the “wrong” classrooms that day pretending like it was normal. And I think I enjoyed it even more when, after we caught wind that it might happen, the teachers pretended like nothing was unusual and started the teaching day with the “wrong” class.
I guess I still have a soft spot in my heart for a harmless April Fool’s prank. And my wife’s cell phone isn’t going to tape itself to the ceiling…