Looking back on the events of this morning, it all unfolded much like the scene in Genesis 3 with Adam and Eve and the disastrous original sin that set the world on a crash course with pain, struggle and death.
Our forbidden fruit took the form of what we thought was a harmless April Fools Day prank, which ended up crushing the hopes and dreams of our sweet little 8-year-old boy. I still feel horrible about it. Hopefully, he’s got a short memory and I’m only fearfully exaggerating the far-reaching effects of this bad joke because I feel so guilty.
As any parent can attest, there is nothing worse than seeing your child in pain. The only thing worse is when you are the sole cause of that pain. And today, there’s no doubt about it. My wife and I caused it — but in our defense, who knew an 8-year-old boy who is into basketball and golf and arrows and forts and books would’ve been ECSTATIC at learning he was the proud new owner of some goats?
Well, we didn’t have a clue.
The morning started innocently enough. I strolled up to the breakfast table, grabbed my usual hot tea and took a spot next to my 14-year-old daughter. My 9-year-old son was fresh off his latest attempt to “fool” us so the spirit of mischief was in the air. My wife gave me a little nod as she mentioned that we had some work to do in preparing for the goats that we were getting.
Goats? We already have six chickens and a golden retriever puppy, so I’m well past my animals-in-the-house max comfort zone. No way we’re getting goats, boo — ohhhhh, wait. I get it. Today is April 1st and we’re gonna trick the kids. This will be fun! Let’s do it. The kids didn’t really react to my wife’s glancing mention, so I emphasized things to make it clear that the Andros family is getting goats.
“Yes, that’s right. I don’t want to hear any whining — they’re going to be a lot of work,” I said, trying to sound as official dad-like as possible.
Then came the reaction I didn’t see coming. I thought they were maxed out on chores — cleaning the coop, getting the feed, the water, the eggs, walking the dog, cleaning the poop, feeding the dog, etc. I thought they’d react with moans and groans.
Then, it happened.
“We’re getting goats? Oh-hoh, yes!” my son shouted out.
As if that wasn’t mortifying enough, the reaction was accompanied by a massive Tiger Woods-esque fist pump.
“I’ll milk them EVERY morning!” he happily promised, his eyes already glazed over, envisioning his new goat friends roaming around our already crowded yard.
The other kids were skeptical and pretty much realized we weren’t serious. We hadn’t mentioned goats ever before, and by now they know that when we decide on an animal we make sure they know what they’re in for before we get them. But Samuel, oh, he was all in.
My wife and I knew we were in trouble. She’d floated the trial balloon out there and I took it across the finish line. We’d believed the snake’s lies, that this was going to be so funny — and fun!
This is all unfolding rapidly and was unplanned, so we had to think fast — how can we get out of this mess? I try to make the scenario even more ridiculous, telling the kids the goats will live in the shed or maybe even the garage. Hoping he’d catch on and be able to play along with the gag and “get it” and have a laugh.
But nope, this only made things worse. He was SO excited! My wife and I looked at each other and silently agreed it was time to pull off the band-aid. Sheepishly, we say “April Fools!” and then we braced for impact.
I’ve never seen the light of joy fade out of a little one so quickly. You could literally see the emotion flee his body. It was as if the waves from our words chased the elation right out of him and replaced it with intense sadness and grief.
Tears began to well slowly as he processed what he’d just heard. He managed a soul-crushing, broken reply: “You mean… we’re…not getting goats?”
“No, sweetie. We were just kidding because it’s April Fools Day,” we explained.
Then, his chin sank into his chest and his eyes closed tight — and my poor sweet little guy burst into tears. Man, he really wanted those goats! Never would’ve guessed it in a million years.
I felt like the parent of the year at that moment. A few hours later I’m still feeling awful that I caused him to feel that bit of pain. Now, look — I realize his life wasn’t ruined by this prank. But until you are a parent and you feel the weight of your child experiencing sadness and pain, you simply won’t be able to understand.
We apologized to him and gave him some big hugs. He slowly came to grips with the fact that his life would continue to remain goat-less unless we visited a local farm. And he got his things together and trudged off to school where he’d be, ironically, celebrating “Donuts with Dad” day.
Didn’t feel quite worthy of the honor today, but as I thought about the slip up more, that’s the reality of parenting. We try our best and we stumble and fall. A wise person once gave this advice: forgive your dad. Doesn’t matter who they are, or how hard they tried, or how good they were at it — they’ve made a mistake along the way. There are so many ways for us to misstep it’s impossible not to have some gaffs here and there.
My oldest is 14, so we have a long way to go as parents, but the biggest thing we can do is recognize the fact that we are not perfect — and let our kids know that, too. Demonstrate what it means to forgive and to seek forgiveness.
In the midst of all our mess-ups, that’s one gift we can impart to them that we’ll never regret.
As for April Fools Day pranks — I’m likely done with those. If you continue that tradition, hopefully you can remember our mistake today and execute yours in a much more edifying, enjoyable way than we did!