Where angels fear to treat
April Fools' Day is kind of a second class holiday. There aren't any cards or candy or flowers – except maybe a squirting daisy on some joker's lapel. It's just a lame excuse to play practical jokes, so people can look annoyed and tell you to get a life. But it wasn't always that way.
Back in the Middle Ages, the Feast of Fools was a big deal. On that one day every year, the universe was turned on its head. Servants lorded over their masters. Paupers were hailed as kings. Revelers roamed the streets and partied all night, celebrating foolishness and a world gone mad.
But somewhere along the way, we've lost our appreciation for The Fool. In most cultures, he isn't just an annoying guy with a Whoopee Cushion – he's a legend, a hero, or maybe even a god. The Middle East has Nasreddin, the trickster holy man. The Norse have Loki, god of mischief. Native Americans have Coyote and Raven, creators of the universe. But what do we have? Jack-Ass? Ocho Cinco? Pee-wee Herman?
One thing I've noticed is that foolishness, whether legendary or just embarrassing, comes mostly from men. We seem to have a special appreciation for things that are pointless and unexpected.
A few years ago, I came across a story about some medieval warfare geeks who built a giant catapult called a "trebuchet." They tested it by flinging a Volkswagen across a barley field. I was so impressed that I spent the day telling anyone who'd listen all about it, and I noticed something interesting. Whenever I told a guy, his eyes would widen with delight, and he'd say: "How far did it go?" But if I told a woman, she'd just shake her head and say: "Why?"
Let's face it – men are just naturally more foolish than women. We know this from the one endeavor that requires a near-perfect understanding of human nature: advertising.
Tune in any football game, and watch a few beer commercials. Every one features some poor schmuck getting tricked into acting like a complete idiot. It's like a series of Roadrunner cartoons, with some cleavage thrown in to keep your attention.
Now tune into The View, or Oprah, and watch a few ads – what are they about? Breast cancer awareness. Earthquake relief in Haiti. Heavy menstrual bleeding. See what I mean?
As you might expect, the gender gap in foolishness extends to parenthood as well. When little Johnny or Susie toddles into the coffee table and puts a dent in his or her forehead, Mommy rocks and comforts them until they stop crying. Daddy puts a diaper on his head and does the Macarena until they laugh.
But the truth is, a good diaper-on-the-head routine is a lot more valuable than it seems. Yes, kids need stability and security and predictability – but they also need a good dose of goofiness. Life is full of bumps and surprises. If you don't laugh about them, it stops being fun.
Under the surface, the Feast of Fools was more than just random silliness. It was a one-day revolution, where power and dignity took a back seat to the unexpected. For a brief moment, all that was predictable and stable in the world was pushed aside. Suddenly, anything was possible.
Once in a while, we should bring that same revolution into our homes. Otherwise, parenting becomes all about car seats and anti-lock brakes, homework and piano lessons, Amber alerts and organic baby food. Our job isn't just to protect and manage our kids – it's to launch them into the world. It's to give them a sense, not only of life's challenges and dangers, but also of its wonders.
So why should April Fools' be a one-shot deal? Foolishness deserves a bigger place in our lives. Why not make it a year-long celebration?
Every day, we should strive to do something foolish. Slip some food coloring into the milk, then deny it. Come home from work wearing a Spiderman mask. Freeze like a statue for 30 seconds, then make believe it never happened.
Wonder is a sense – just like touch, or taste, or smell. It's a way to experience the world. But if you don't use it, your sense of wonder grows weak and dull. It's our job to make sure that doesn't happen to our kids. A world full of wonder depends on the unexpected, so let's teach them to look for it, and embrace it.
Come on, dads, this is our moment. This is what we were made to do. Don't let your God-given talent for acting like an idiot go to waste. Slap that diaper on your head and go bust a move.
There's no need to be shy. Remember: fools rush in.