The Joy of Fooling your Kids

What is happening in this photo?

Photo of my daughter sitting on our floor gripping a purple Crayola marker between her big toe and second toe while also holding the marker with her right hand as she tries to draw using her toes. Some nonsensical purple scrawls are already visible on the piece of paper underneath her feet.

My 3-year-old daughter is writing with her toes because they’ve been newly stretched to perform as fingers.

This is a short story about the joy of pulling one over on your kids.

Yesterday I was walking through our living room when I announced, "Somebody needs to be tickled!"

My Little Miss responded: "No, we’re all sitting and people who are sitting can’t be tickled."

I expected a response such as that. We have a house rule: no tickling family members unless they try to mix their salad using their fingers instead of a fork. But I like to challenge her with a tickling threat now and then. This time I let her be with her mother.

My wife then continued conversing with Little Miss.

"But it really does look like you want to be tickled."


"Well, if you’re not in the mood for tickling, maybe you’re in the mood for ponytail tugging."


"What about tummy poking?"

"No!" (laugh)

"What about toe pulling?"

"No, that might hurt!"

"No, you don’t pull toes to hurt. You pull toes to make them longer."

"Why would anybody want longer toes?" (shrugging shoulders)

"Well, if you had longer toes, you could use them like fingers. Come on over and I’ll pull your toes for you and we’ll stretch them out."

"Okay, if you want me to, I’ll come over there."

She sat down and removed a sock. My wife starting pulling the big toe in a massaging fashion. Then the toe popped unintentionally (like popping your knuckles).

"Well, that one’s longer."

Then she pulled the second toe and said, "Look, now your second toe is even longer than your big toe." (It’s technically true; my daughter inherited my weird toes.)

My wife proceeded to stretch the remaining toes on the right foot — because my daughter is right-handed. Then my daughter put her feet together to compare her long toes with her unstretched short toes.

"Well, what do we do now?"

"We need to see if your toes are long enough. Go grab a crayon."

"No, I want to use a marker."

"A marker might be a little big for toe fingers."

Our daughter could not be swayed, so she grabbed a marker and a piece of paper. She used her hand to steady the awkwardness of writing with her foot while sitting on the floor.

After a bit, I explained that Mama was being goofy and her toes were normal length. My daughter looked back and forth between me and her mother a few times before she realized we were "being goofy."

I should explain at this point that I routinely tease my daughter with fictional stories and far-fetched explanations for things. She’s just not accustomed to her mother giving her the treatment.

At age 2, my joking would sometimes bother her and boil her over into getting upset if I didn’t gauge her reaction carefully enough.

Now at almost 4-years-old, she "gets me" a lot better than many adults do. A wry smile is all that’s needed to let her know we’re just having fun.

Here are some recent examples:

One morning, she was going to have instant oatmeal for breakfast, but all of her toddler bowls were in the dishwasher. I showed her our cupboard devoid of bowls and explained that we would have to pour the hot water directly into the paper oatmeal packet. She yelled, "No!" and pulled the packet away. We then debated the merits of my idea.

For the past two weeks, when brushing her teeth every evening, I’ve attempted to convince her that her pink toothbrush is actually red. "My, what a fine red toothbrush you have," I’ll say, and so forth. Two nights ago I coated two-thirds of the toothbrush (the part that doesn’t go in her mouth) with ink from a red Sharpie pen and let her find it the next day. I denied everything. A little later she sought me out in the house to show me that she had washed most of the red off with her toy sponge… and then she had the audacity to question my integrity.

My daughter’s latest thing is to recall a major event from a year or two ago, such as watching Fourth of July fireworks or dressing up for Halloween. She’ll ask one of us, "Do you remember when…" This particular time she asked, "Do you remember when we took a train to Reno?" and my wife responded, "Yes, do you remember when we took the airplane to Hawaii and flew over the volcano?" Note: We’ve never visited Hawaii and she has never flown in a plane. My daughter responded, without batting an eye, "No, but do you remember the day space monkeys flew down to our house and tried to steal all of our bananas?"

A few months ago I had told her an elaborate story about space monkeys. So it was intriguing to see that she recognized my wife’s preposterous ploy and responded with one of her own.

It seems my Little Miss is getting sophisticated, forcing me to work harder to pull her leg.

Last night she bested me. At bedtime, I announced, "Whoever gets to your bed first gets to sleep in it tonight!" We then raced to her bedroom, with me trying to hog the hallway so she couldn’t get past me. It’s our nightly ritual.

This time, she snuck ahead of me and bolted, so I turned around, ducked into our kitchen and hid. I needed to trick her into leaving her room so I could dash inside and claim victory. So I slammed the door to my home office and quietly returned to the kitchen. I whispered to my wife, "Tell her to come get me out of the office." Try as we did, my daughter wouldn’t leave her room. Instead, she casually yelled, "Papa, why are you in the kitchen?" Her voice was dripping with amusement.

That’s my daughter.


13 Responses to “The Joy of Fooling your Kids”

  1. Summer says:

    Thanks for sharing these cute little stories…. what a smart little girl you have! Adorable!

    April 24th, 2008 at 6:40 am

  2. Jennifer says:

    How absolutly fun! I love when children are taught to joke and have fun. There is way too much seriousness going on in life now a days. She is going to have some great memories too!

    April 24th, 2008 at 7:13 am

  3. Katie says:

    My dad used to joke around with us like that. And, I married someone who does the same thing so we have the same kind of banter going on between the two of us. He’s already joking around with our daughter even though she is two months old and isn’t understanding yet.

    Sometimes people see it as being a pest or teasing (a negative thing), but I see it as it is: a never ending game of wits.

    April 24th, 2008 at 7:29 am

  4. Jessica G. says:

    I love this! Makes me feel like we are not the only people left with a wacky sense of humor. Teaching banter, wit, slapstick comedy, whimsy and general silliness to kids is so important! Life is waaay too serious. Having kids reminded me to laugh from my belly.

    I married someone as insane as I am and we are passing it on to our girls. At some point they are going to be horribly embarrassed by us but for now we are the funniest people they know. My 3.5 yo daughter loves answering every knock-knock joke with a resounding “BANANA!!” Something we encourage that completely befuddles her teachers, friends and other adults. She knows it is funny. And it is.

    April 24th, 2008 at 8:35 am

  5. JMo says:

    I love starting the day with a heartwarming post.

    April 24th, 2008 at 8:53 am

  6. Bob says:

    awesome :P that’s good stuff

    April 24th, 2008 at 12:50 pm

  7. Cindi says:

    Cute stories. Kids are so amazing and funny, most of the time! The gift of laughter is a blessing.
    Thanks for sharing your anecdotes. Cindi

    April 24th, 2008 at 1:10 pm

  8. LiteralDan says:

    Here’s to all the people who do this! My son knows when I’m being serious about something, so I can play with him a bit.

    I just hope my daughter proves to have the same sensibility. It looks good so far, but who knows?

    April 24th, 2008 at 9:44 pm

  9. ChristinA says:

    I love goofing around with my daughter! She’ll look at me when I say something completely off the wall and say “You’re just kidding Mommy!” And it is still funny to hear her say a knock knock joke, even after she says banana 75 times. She also has a bit of slapstick in her because when she falls or trips she’ll go “I meant to do that.”

    April 28th, 2008 at 3:21 am

  10. RobMonroe says:

    Okay – laughed aloud at work. I am trying to keep it down.

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful set of stories. I really hope that Abby “get’s me” when she’s older. I hate when people tell me that it’s all down hill once they start talking. I don’t believe that for one minute. I want to tell her stories about space monkeys, and have her participate.

    For now, she’ll have to hear them and not respond. :o)

    April 28th, 2008 at 12:49 pm

  11. learning_the_ropes says:

    Awww..that was so sweet. You have one smart daughter here.

    May 1st, 2008 at 11:09 am

  12. Lisa says:

    My husband also jokes around like that, and just LOVES puns. Our older son has an innate ability to recognize a punchline, and has since he was about 3 months old. He has often giggled about a joke, which he could not have understood, before other adults present, myself included.

    May 2nd, 2008 at 9:37 am

  13. Nikki says:

    I love your toe-popping story. It’s really cute. I could just imagine the look on her face while you and your wife were popping her toes knowing that you’re just playing with her.
    Those times are priceless. You have a very smart daughter as well. Keep up the good work!

    November 29th, 2008 at 12:57 am

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