When both of my sons were teenagers, still living at home, one of their pranks against “Dad” (me) was to make sure the bum chair was always in my usual place at the dinner table. I’d sit down, feel the discomfort, and wince. My sons would burst out laughing. The joke was on me. Always. And because I was never suspecting, I fell for the trick again and again, much to their delight.
So, this Christmas season, both of my sons are at home again for a couple of weeks. All the old family jokes come out—especially when my daughter joins us. My older son pulled out a text I had sent him more than two years ago, teasing him that “Even at your wedding, you’ll probably make sure I’m sitting in the bum chair.” Can you believe, he saved that text from over two years ago—and he still thinks it’s funny? Of course, everyone around the table laughed. At me.
Another family joke is when I wanted to have fun embarrassing my teenage sons at a Dairy Queen drive-thru. Whenever we went for Blizzards, I'd order the Reese’s Blizzard. But the employees at our local Dairy Queen always pronounced it “Ree-sees.” I knew the correct pronunciation was “Ree-siz.” So, I asked the attendant, much to my sons’ chagrin, “Why do you guys always call it ‘Ree-sees’?” Of course, I embarrassed them in the moment, but since then, they’ve turned the tables on me and now tease me about “getting angry” at the drive-thru attendants. “Hey Dad, why do they call it Reeeeee-seeeees?” I hear the exaggerated version of that ill-fated question again and again, whenever they want to throw a jab my way. Yup, shamed in my home ever since. (A word of caution to parents of teenagers: Any prank you play on your kids has the unlimited potential to backfire.)
My sons were often loud and rowdy, whereas my wife preferred peace, tranquility, and order in the home. Whenever they'd get carried away, she’d call out, “Boys,” as a way to make them aware that they were exceeding the acceptable decibel threshold, or that too much testosterone was at play. So, with both of them at the dinner table during this Christmas season, one will deliberately amplify his voice so the other can say, “Boys.” However, they modified the pronunciation to “boyce.” Back and forth they trade jabs, followed up by, “boyce, boyce.” My wife and I can do nothing but look on helplessly.
When did our home get so out of control?
Another table trick they used to play was setting out the cutlery but deliberately leaving out a spoon, fork, or napkin for me. We’d sit down, pray, and then begin the meal.
“Hey, how come I didn’t get a fork?” I’d complain.
“I put four of everything on the table,” my wife countered. “Must be here somewhere.”
My kids would only snicker.
What could I do but laugh?
Funny words and movie lines often come out—words picked up in literature or lines heard in movies.
"Poppycock" (National Treasure), "We ain't had nothing but maggoty bread for three stinkin' days" (Lord of the Rings/LOTR movie), and a whole host of other ridiculous words pop up, all used on each other. But "Jackanapes" (CS Lewis' Narnia series) and "Stinker" (LOTR) are used facetiously on our poor defenseless dog Biscuit. Scandalous chuckles follow, and Biscuit smiles happily, thinking she's being called "good dog" with new vocabulary.
I may not want to trade these moments, memories, or family jokes for anything, but, I’ll always trade the bum chair for a good one, even when it makes my scheming kids snicker all the louder.