By Laura Simon

I was digging through my minivan the other day, looking for something I told my children to put in a safe place, when I found all the socks in our house. I’m only slightly exaggerating. It seemed that literally our entire stash of children’s socks – and it’s a considerable stash – went missing during sandal weather, and suddenly we found ourselves with very cold, bare feet. I was going to blame the washer for eating them until I started digging around for a schoolwork folder and discovered ten pairs of socks under one of the captain’s chairs in the minivan. I was confused and elated, and then I reached in to pull them out. Apparently the same kid who’s been hiding his socks in the car also wanted to store a spider ring for safe-keeping.

Those spider rings are remarkably realistic, especially for a woman who killed a southern house spider in her garage just a few weeks ago. Go ahead, google it. Just plan on never sleeping again.

Anyway, my reaction to the spider ring was everything my children could have hoped for – and more. So guess what? I’m going to find spider rings every time I open a drawer for the next three months. Maybe I’ll also find socks in that drawer. I’m willing to take the good with the bad.

After the spider ring, I did the logical next thing: I bought a monster spider at Dollar Tree and I hid it in my oldest child’s bed. He claims he wasn’t scared at all, but I was watching from the hall. It was worth every cent I paid for the thing.

That spider then made it onto my husband’s pillow, but that was kind of a bust. My boys told my four-year-old daughter, and she greeted my husband at the door, saying, “Daddy, whatever you do, don’t go look in your bed.” She’s officially not allowed to participate in family pranks until she learns not to tattle. But the prank wars will go on.

My husband doesn’t understand the whole thing. After all, who wants to make a little kid jump out of his skin? Well, my dad did. He was infamous. He collected the bug-like shells that cicadas leave behind and hid them in my lunch box, on my pillow, in the sleeve of my coat…and once I went to grab my favorite teddy bear and found a set of beady eyes staring back at me from the top of its head. And while he’d always kill the spider for me, then he’d lunge at me with the tissue holding the carcass. I learned to kill my own spiders.

My dad was the gentlest, kindest human being I’ve ever met. I never once doubted that he loved me tremendously. Looking back, I realize that pranking was the way he played with me. He wasn’t one to wrestle or stage elaborate games, but the teasing was his own form of affection. If he liked you, he pranked you. He liked his mother-in-law a lot.

He taught me well, and I was an eager student.

I had some great fun with the middle and high school kids I taught. They also had some great fun with me. (Shout out to the kid who put the post-it note on the bottom of my computer mouse – it took three tech guys to figure that one out.) It’s important to set parameters, of course, but a little prank actually builds history and relationship. When I talk to former students, the practical jokes are right there at the top of the things they remember, along with the importance of providing evidence to support their claims (thank goodness). My dad has been gone for eight years now, and everyone who talks about him starts to laugh thinking about the fun he created.

I suppose that’s why I’m enabling the silly pranking in my own house. I’m building memories with my kids, and I won’t apologize for that. Also, I need to borrow a skeleton. Anyone have one I can use for a night?

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