One day, my brother and sister were having a fight about something and my brother let it slip that he was the favorite child. My sister responded that it was preposterous — she was the favorite child. I weighed in with my own claim. We quickly realized that we’d been had. Our parents had told us each that we were their favorite. My siblings stopped fighting and we immediately planned how we were going to deal with these parents of ours. My sister, the oldest, prepared her speech and we waited for them to come home. We angrily confronted them about their deceit and they responded by doubling over in laughter.
Sure, sure, my parents might simply be insane. I mean, they’re also the people who thought it was funny to “pretend” they were going to drop us off cliffs and stuff while we were out hiking. When Michael Jackson got in trouble for dangling his baby over the balcony, they honestly couldn’t understand the fuss.
But I rather liked their goofiness. I also found comeradery in the idea that my siblings and I were in an epic “us vs. them” battle of punchlines and intrigue.
An Egyptian friend recently told the story of how he pranked his friends’ only son. He was asked to watch the boy one night and when he put him to bed, he told him that his parents had another son, roughly the same age, and that this son lived in the attic. Every night after the first son fell asleep, the other son was brought down from the attic and given ice cream. Okay, so the boy goes to sleep. A few days later, the friend gets a call from the parents. He can hear crying in the background. The father angrily says: Please tell our son immediately that he has no brother in the attic and that there are no ice cream treats. I’m going to go ahead and assume here, that the sheer oddity of the story can be chalked up to cultural differences.
But not all pranks are so odd as the Egyptian’s, or my parents’. Other parents direct their shenanigans in a more helpful manner.
When my husband was a kid, there was a contest at a local department store that was giving away Snoopy stuffed animals. To win, you needed to write an essay about why you wanted the doll. The first prize was a Snoopy doll, second prize was a Woodstock doll and third prize was, of course, Spike — Snoopy’s Mexican cousin. My husband worked on his submission and they went to the department store on the day of the drawing. He explained to me that, oddly, the prize wasn’t announced but that it was sent to his home later. He only later realized (as in, just a few years ago) that his mother had figured out he wasn’t winning and had rushed him out of the store and bought a Spike doll for him. Now, you might argue that such moves might make a child think his skills are better than the market indicates. And you might be right. But, on the other hand, my husband ended up with a career as a writer so it all worked out in the end.
Over at reddit, a discussion got going about “cagey” parenting moves. The original poster told about how his son had trouble making friends and so he picked him up from school one day but brought their pugs. He asked his son to hold onto the pugs while he went inside the school to “go to the bathroom.” He gave his son ample time to talk to new people who wanted to see the dogs. That’s some cool and cagey parenting.
Another poster relays how his Dad surreptitiously backed a concert that his band wanted to put on. The kid wanted to play music but had no idea how concerts worked. The Dad arranged it so that the concert would go off without a hitch but didn’t tell him he was doing it. He says:
He played this all so cool, and so close to his chest, that i didn’t figure out what he’d done until i was 27. my dad gave me the start of my musical career, and in doing so actually made me think i’d done it myself, thereby giving me the self confidence to keep going in music. dad made me think i put on my first concert myself and gave me self confidence and self satisfaction while he pulled the strings from backstage.
Now, as much as I love my parents’ goofy sense of humour, these cagey parenting moves are the bomb. I hope I can pull off such shenanigans when my children are in need of a confidence boost.