Playing pranks for April Fools’ Day is great fun… | Parents and parenting

‘We can turn Mummy into a dog!’ says my son. I look at him quizzically and say that might not be possible. ‘An ant, then?’ he offers, by way of compromise. Those are both excellent pranks, I tell him, but quite far outside the remit of April Fools’ Day. It’s the first he’s ever heard of the holiday and enthusiasm is getting the better of him. While I attempt to manage his expectations, he leaps around the room, drunk on the prospect of adult-sanctioned silliness.

He is, after all, a budding comedian. I recently made the mistake of introducing him to the ‘what do you get if you cross x and y’ format, specifically the classic sheep/kangaroo ‘woolly jumper’ crossbreed. He has spent every day since attempting his own, with decidedly mixed results. Sample: what do you get if you cross a lion, a goat and a snake? A Liongoatsnake! The thousand or so variants he’s come up with since have not been particularly hilarious, but they have at least provided a recklessly thorough census of every animal he’s ever heard of.

What he truly loves is a minor feast day. His somewhat complex relationship with his Irishness disappears entirely for St Patrick’s Day, where the thrill of dressing in green outweighs the indignation he feels about us rooting against England in rugby matches. Halloween and Pancake Tuesday are holy days of obligation and his reverence for World Book Day is, tragically, almost perfectly negated by the energy I’m willing to expend on costumery. (This year, I stuck a plastic snail on an old jumper and wrote a quote from Julia Donaldson’s The Snail & The Whale in a silvery marker trail., which took me five minutes and with which he was much pleased)

On 15 January, for reasons known only to herself, my wife told him it was Blue Monday, the ‘most depressing day of the year’ dreamed up by Sky Travel in 2005 to sell package holidays. It exists now solely as ore to be mined by breakfast radio DJs in their grinding, joy-denuded search for anything on which to hinge a phone-in, but my son took it to heart. At the school gates, he cheerily informed us he’d spent the whole day asking his teacher for treats on the grounds that he and his friends were ‘depressed’ and deserved a pick-me-up.

April Fools’ Day, however, had passed him by and weeks in advance he is ecstatic at the thought. Once we rule out corporeal transformation, we settle on more manageable pranks to play on his unsuspecting mum. We have a snail left over from his Book Day costume and pledge to place it on her pillow before she wakes up. United in cruelty, we put tiny paper pieces into cups and practise throwing them like cold water. We delight at the thought of her horrified reaction, father and son bonded by excellent pranksmanship.

Later, alas, I find he and his mother conspiring on the sofa, their whispered laughs ending abruptly as I walk in. I regard their narrowed eyes and quivering mouths, the stench of betrayal hanging acrid in the air. My son, my co-conspirator, is in league with our shared enemy. Tomorrow I may discover our sacred bond as pranksmen has been broken. More fool me.

Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O’Reilly is out now (Little, Brown, £16.99). Buy a copy from guardianbookshop at £14.78

Follow Séamas on X @shockproofbeats

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