FAMILY MATTERS - It never hurts to laugh at yourself

I'm on the school bus, riding home with a group of sophomores who have just been to Cleveland to see a play. One of them is on his cell phone, talking to his mother. "I'm lost!' he shrieks into the phone. "The bus left without me, and I'm in Cleveland somewhere, and I don't know where I am! There's no one here to help me!'
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

I’m on the school bus, riding home with a group of sophomores who have just been to Cleveland to see a play.  One of them is on his cell phone, talking to his mother.

“I’m lost!” he shrieks into the phone. “The bus left without me, and I’m in Cleveland somewhere, and I don’t know where I am! There’s no one here to help me!”

As his teacher, I sternly told him to tell his mother the truth, but he continued alarming his mother with his story.

“You don’t believe me, Mom? Yes, I’m lost. What do you mean, you don’t believe me?”

His mom wasn’t fooled — she knew it was April 1, and her son was playing an April Fool’s Day joke on her. She apparently knew her son very well.

So ... this is the month that starts with April Fool’s Day. What an odd holiday! Whose idea was this holiday, anyway?

A brief search on the Internet tells me that some believe the holiday started in the 1500s, when the calendar changed and the new year moved from starting in late March or early April to starting on Jan. 1, as it is now. Some people didn’t know the calendar had changed, and continued to celebrate the new year at the wrong time.  They were the original “April Fools.”

Others think springtime, and the return of warm weather, is just the perfect time for a lighthearted holiday.

A professor once researched the matter, and announced that the holiday began when a king allowed his jester, or fool, to be king for a day, and on that day, the jester decided to create a holiday called “April Fool’s Day.”  The Associated Press carried that story, only to find out that the professor had made it all up, as his own April Fool’s Day joke on the media.

I can remember, once, my father set my alarm clock an hour early to awaken me early on April Fool’s Day. I got dressed and came downstairs before I realized the time was wrong. And once, a few years ago, my son rigged the spray spout at our kitchen sink so it would spray at us when we turned the water on. And one April Fool’s Day many years ago, I told my husband that a person had called to offer him a job he had applied for — but that had never happened. April Fool’s!

What is the point of this “holiday?” Why is it fun to make people feel foolish if they fall for your joke?

In France, when we visited my daughter, they were having a similar holiday where the object was for children to tape a paper fish to the back of an adult without the adult realizing it. Then, that adult would walk around looking ridiculous with a paper fish on his or her back. Happy Fake Fish Day, or something like that.

Why is it funny to see how gullible people can be? Or why is it good to make others feel like idiots? Why is this a holiday? I don’t like the feeling that someone has played a joke on me. It makes me mad.

But then, maybe there is a good reason to do this to people.

For one thing, it’s good to be made to look like a fool once in a while.  It reminds us that we are not superhuman, that we are not perfect, and that everyone makes mistakes. Even adults. Even the high and mighty.

We take ourselves way too seriously. We are not all that important. We don’t have to be right all the time. It’s OK to be a fool, just as long as they let you in on the joke before too long. And just as long as they don’t laugh at you too hard.