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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Encore! Fatherly fibber stirs skepticism (2008)

No foolin', I just love April 1st. I've already pranked the girls twice, once bringing the youngest to near tears. I told her Mommy, who's been visiting her sister for three days, was staying an extra month. She's only 5 and doesn't understand the spirit of April Fool's Day. Now, after her baptism into the day's cruelties she gets it with a vengeance. She's been a carnival of evil pranks and I couldn't be happier. So I thought this 2008 post about telling strategic lies to the girls would be a good one for Re-run Sunday.

It began to dawn on my daughter sometime earlier this year that I haven’t been getting into telephonic shouting matches with President George W. Bush every month or so.

That’s what I’d pretend I was doing every time the Caller ID indicated some pesky telemarketer was calling to go through his or her monotonous spiel.

“Well, if it isn’t President Ding Dong again!” I’d say (I call him Ding Dong because, like a bell, his apparently empty head is still capable of producing loud, jarring noises that reverberate around the globe).

“Seriously, George, I don’t know why you keep calling here when you never take my advice. Now for the last time, if you don’t do something to shore up the housing market, it could trigger financial collapses in the banking and credit industries. Then we’re all in for a hell of a mess while you skip down to Crawford to clear brush and sip nonalcoholic beer. Please, for the good of the country, act now. And stop bothering us during the dinner hour!”

Then I’d slam the phone down and resume eating like nothing unusual had happened.

Really, it might seem to even casual observers that President Bush has been for the past eight years soliciting advice from spastic and underemployed jokers like me, but I’ll wager my shouted suggestions to the confused telemarketers are better advice than anything Bush has ever heard from Dick Cheney.

For a while at least, the 8-year-old thought her Daddy was a pretty important fellow, someone sought by famous and important leaders and celebrities around the globe.

She’s heard me have similar strategic conversations with Steeler coaches, Catholic popes and the dreamy young actor who plays Troy in High School Musical (“Kid, I’m telling you the sequel’s gonna be gold. Gold, I tell you! You gotta do it!”)

But now she’s becoming more skeptical of my little games. This pleases me and makes me work even harder to fool her.

I know I shouldn’t do it but I often find it irresistible to tell Josie a really big lie. I try to be forthright with her in nearly every regard, but I think it might be helpful to once in a while tell her whoppers of such audacious blather that she’ll learn to question everything, even the specious wisdoms of fatherly fibber.

Like the time this summer when I told her some scientists believe the entire vast sum of the oceans’ origins stem from dinosaur urine.

We were standing on the sandy shores of the Atlantic at Virginia Beach, the warm foamy waters lapping at our legs.

“I’m not saying I know it’s true, but I have read some respected scientists who say that all this water, for as far as your eyes can see, really comes from vast ancient releases of dinosaur pee.”

And that much was true. I had read it in a prominent national magazine. It was in the late and much-missed Weekly World News (favorite headline: “Baby Born with Wooden Leg!!!”), but it was a national magazine and I had read it.

That points to another supportive lie I still shout in adult arguments: “The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says you can’t print it if it isn’t true!” You’d be surprised by how many arguments that helps me conclusively win, but I digress.

Back at the ocean, Josie’s eyes scanned the horizon and I was happy to see she was engaged in critical thought. She turned to question me, but I was already dashing into the water to dive in head first. I came up with a big mouthful of salt water and fountained it up over my head as she raced to her mother to have her confirm her suspicions that Daddy’s an idiot, a confirmation Mommy’s always ready to invoke.

I think part of it, too, might be so much of what our ancestors held as sacred wisdom has been revealed to be folly.

You know the kind of thing I’m talking about: The world is flat. The earth is the center of the universe. Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.

I think a healthy skepticism is important for a curious child, and I lament so little of it in the adults they look up to for guidance. So much of what passes for conventional wisdom these days is worth little more than a great big steaming bucket of dinosaur pee.

And that’s the truth.

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