• Oliver Messner

To prank or not to prank

My eldest and I play the occasional prank on each other and she's gotten the hang of the fact that pranks are fine as long as they aren't harmful or too mean to the target of a particular caper. Rubber snakes and spiders, artfully placed, ready to scare the socks off of the unsuspecting victim, feature prominently in our ongoing prank war.

There are times when it goes a bit too far and it's then that I have to put my foot down and explain why whatever happened is not a good thing or, when it's me that crosses the line, apologize, berate myself for getting carried away and then proceed to feel like an asshat.

I'll carry on with three prime examples of where I took the joke too far and consequently felt like the scum of the earth.

Water games This one was actually started by my eldest daughter and involved her, water gun at the ready, waiting in silent anticipation around any given corner ready to pounce. Then jumping out, giggling like a maniac while hosing me from top to bottom and running off before I even knew what was fully going on. This went on for quite a while until she did it while I was walking in the yard carrying a bucket of water. One thing led to another and the water from the bucket ended up bring poured over her head. Needless to say, she was not impressed and I received a talking too from the wife. Childish and silly featured prominently in that conversation. Inwardly smiling, I dutifully nodded my head at the appropriate moments and remained silent at others, thus surviving another day.

Disease prevention Sometimes trying to explain to my kids that something is dangerous and shouldn't be touched is very similar to trying to eat soup with a fork. I think I'm making headway but am in reality not getting anywhere and might as well not bother. That's why dangerous chemicals and sharp objects are locked away, safety out of reach.

We used to have drums around the place that collected rainwater from the houses gutters, which we then used to water the garden with. These were nothing fancy but rather old black plastic, open topped containers that we had converted to feature inlet and outlet pipes. Sometimes, after a heavy downpour, these would be full and the water would be standing around for a week or more before it could all be used. Obviously not the best place for a kid to stick their grabbers in to play a round of swishy-swish. To try and keep here away, I kept telling my eldest that there were big, nasty creatures living just under the surface of the water and they would jump out onto her hand, run up her arm, to go and live in her hair and basically ruin her day if she kept disturbing them.

She would of course just laugh, call me ,' silly daddy', and keep on sticking her hands in the water. One day I decided to up the ante and took a rock, safety nestled in the pocket of my pants, to where she was once again playing at the water bins. I mentioned the nameless, water bound horrors from beyond and got the standard, unfazed reaction that I was used to. I then feigned surprise and told her to look at the weird bird in the sky overhead just behind her. Lobbing the stone in a high flying arc, just as she turned to look, it slashed into the middle of the water, causing a satisfyingly audible 'plop' and sloshed a decent amount over the sides. Thinking that the unseen terrors had finally come to seek their vengeance, eldest shrieked and bolted for the house, faster than I would have thought possible. I know it was wrong and a terrible thing for a parent to do but couldn't help laughing, even while getting another talking too from my significant other. At least the lesson was learned and she never went close to those bins again.

There be dragons here

This last one, I am actually ashamed of but, as is often the case, I thought it was a good idea at the time. I have mentioned in a previous post that my youngest is fully into her exploratory phase. That dangerous time in a kids development, where common sense has yet to make an appearance. Reckless adventure is the order of the day and it comes served with a large extra helping of boundary testing. She will constantly try to open doors or draws that are off limits, climb anything that  has even the slightest elevation whatsoever and, worst of all, run off whenever she has a chance, prison break style.

These little breakout attempts and consequent dashes for perceived freedom, are what scare me the most. One second she's standing next to me, then suddenly she's running down the driveway, her chubby little legs carrying her a surprising distance in a short amount of time before she gets caught by one of her parents. So one day, instead of constantly dashing after her, I altered the rules a bit and improvised. We were leaving the house and as I opened the car door for her, she once again made a dash for the gate, maniacally giggling and heading for.the neighbors driveway. I said,' ooh, watch out! Don't go there, there's a big scary dinosaur in that yard.'

And...it actually worked. She stopped, carefully looked up the driveway and came hurtling back in no time, letting herself be strapped into the car seat without the usual fuss. The wife and me where speechless and I kept using this tactic for a while. Not only does it stop her from running blindly into any number of unforeseeable dangers but also fosters a healthy fear of giant, bloodthirsty, man eating lizards, who might be extinct.... but one can never be too safe.

I might have straddled the do-not-cross prank line with that one but then thoughtlessly leaped over it about two weeks ago. She had been trying to get the front garden gate to open several times that day and the dinosaur trick, as all good things tend to do, was loosing some of it's effect.

I was busy in the kitchen and I saw her through the window, yet again make a break for the cursed front garden gate. I might have cussed a bit under my breath at that point and decided it was time to kick it up a notch. Whipping out my phone, I googled dinosaur roar. The first result that came up was the iconic T-Rex roar from Jurassic Park. I cranked up the phone's volume, pressed play and held it out the window.

Accurate or not, Jurassic Park really nailed it with that roar. It might have come out a bit louder than I intended but straight away I heard a little screech, followed by the frantic patter of little feet hitting the pavement and the little one came shooting through the patio slider faster than a green snake climbing up a sugarcane. She was shouting, ' Dinosaur, dinosaur!, ' at the top of her lungs, clutching her chest and looked absolutely terrified. That wiped the smile right off of my stupid face and I quickly picked her up, showed her where the noise came from and explained that there was no dinosaur about to chomp on her bones.... promising myself to never, ever do something like that again.

Anyone else ever done anything that crossed that line. Something that started as a prank and just turned out being unintentionally mean. Let me know in the comments below.

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