April Fool’s Day is upon us, watch out! I have not played any April Fool pranks but I have assisted my daughter once or twice. When my overly intelligent middle daughter (whom I shall call Piper) was in 5th grade, she decided she would go to school on April 1st on crutches, pretending that she had a badly sprained ankle. So she did. All day long her friends carried her books, students and teachers asked her what was the matter with her leg. She had a plausible story ready and did not break character all day. In fact Piper never broke character. She did not ever tell anyone at that school that her sprained ankle was a prank. She contended with the crutches on the stairs to her class that day. She even sat out recess, a great sacrifice for the sake of her “art.” That she could carry this off without so much as cracking a smile might worry some parents, but I was rather proud of her.
The day after April Fool’s Day she went to school walking fine as if nothing had ever happened to her leg. Of course she was asked about being fully recovered but she just said her leg was better. No teacher suspected anything afoul, not expecting that a 5th grader would pull such a prank and do so with the knowledge of her mother. I knew she could do it, though. I was just glad she well knew the difference between a prank and lying. I had taught my children that lying to me was the worst thing they could do, and carried the strongest discipline that I would dish out. Well, lying and defiance, for I didn’t punish my kids for childishness or accidents, they were children; I just trained them how to do better.
But though they were to be honest with me (this was tested sorely when they became teenagers) I saw nothing wrong with a victimless joke. Fortunate for me, Piper knew that I would not react favorably to having a prank played on me. I don’t like surprises.
Piper did not like being in the spotlight. She was a very early talker but so shy she wouldn’t talk in public to the point that one of my friends asked me if Piper was “slow.” The summer after the April Fool prank our church held acting and music classes for the summer. She decided to take acting and that was fine until the class changed from acting techniques to putting on a play. My daughter was persuaded by the teacher to read for the main female part. I got very nervous about then. She wasn’t a toddler anymore but she still did not like the spotlight. What if she got the part? Would she be willing to get up on stage when it came time for the actual performance? If she did not want to, she could not be made to. She could not be made to do anything even as a small child. She had to be told the reasons behind rules and expected behaviors and come to a point of acceptance based on understanding. Training and disciplining Piper often brought me to my knees in prayer. But though the girl was (is) strong willed, she has no malice in her.
I had a nervous stomach as I sat and listened to several girls read for the part of the mother. The other girls mothers were probably a little nervous that their daughters would not get the part and be disappointed. I was hoping my child wouldn’t get the part. When Piper read I thought “Oh no, she’s going to get the part, she’s great.” And she was, she blew all the other girls out of the water. She got the part.
I was a nervous wreck during the two weeks of rehearsal. Piper complained often that she had let herself get into such a thing, having to get up on stage in front of the church. Motivated by fear, I strongly encouraged her that she could do it. I could just imagine her refusing to get on stage the day of the play out of fear. I have sung in public and know about stage fright. You have to want to perform more than you are afraid. I didn’t know if this would be the case for Piper.
There was no understudy; this wasn’t Broadway or even high school. Would they have to cancel the play if she bolted? Well, the play was mercifully short. Piper did her duty and got onstage, and she was very good. However, I made it a point to encourage her toward lower profile group activities for a while. I needed a break. But I was still proud of my Piper.