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More Tales from the Home Office...

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Whoopie Cushion Mania

Don't ever buy your 9 year-old a whoopie cushion.

I have learned through sad experience that little boys and whoopie cushions don't mix.

To set the record straight, it wasn't exactly like I went out and bought a whoopie cushion for my 9 year old. It's more like it came to me - which only adds to the unacceptability of the situation. It came carefully packaged in a boxed set of "Captain Underpants" books.

I suppose the fault is really mine. I certainly should have been more suspect of a "superhero" by the name of Captain Underpants. I mean I grew up with Superman and Spiderman and the Incredible Hulk. But Captain Underpants?? Until now, I had never heard of such a thing. But if that is what he wanted for Christmas, who was I to question his preferences? And while it all seemed perfectly harmless at the time, it will undoubtedly require many years of intense therapy to fully rehabilitate my damaged psyche.

On Christmas morning, I watched with some fascination as he rummaged through his wrapped presents one by one - carefully shaking them, sizing them and generally attempting to divine their contents. Finally his little hands came to rest on the prize that he somehow knew awaited him. Frantically he tore open the wrapping paper to expose the edge of its boxed contents.

"Awesome!" he exclaimed, "Captain Underpants!"

He continued to tear into the boxed set with an uncanny degree of youthful exuberance. I was mildly amused and more than a little satisfied to see that such an inexpensive gift had inspired such enthusiasm. If only I could have predicted this behavior, I could have saved myself a lot of money.

It turns out that my moment of satisfaction would be short-lived. As he emptied the contents of the box onto the floor in front of him, the books were immediately cast aside like yesterday's news. He went straight for the free whoopie cushion.

No sooner had he pulled the cushion out of its package and held it up for all to see than he was surrounded by a crowd of eager siblings. His first demonstration was met with a wave of riotous and approving laughter. I could see right away that this little whoopie cushion threatened to disrupt our entire Christmas morning celebration.

I immediately insisted that the whoopie cushion be set aside until later, and we were able to resume our activities. And by the time we were finished opening presents the whoopie cushion was only a faint memory to me. What I didn't realize at the time was that even as we opened presents, my son's little mind was busy devising a series of clever pranks to introduce Dad to his new "toy".

You must understand that my son is innately mischievous. Add a healthy dose of imagination to the mix and you can begin to visualize the possibilities. Things were about to get very interesting around our house.

I certainly do not pretend to understand the workings of a 9 year old mind. However, I quickly came to recognize the emergence of a set of rules that seemed to govern the pranks as they played themselves out over the ensuing days.

Rule #1:  Always make sure Dad is involved in the prank.

Rule #2:  Never let Dad know that he is involved in the prank.

Rule #3:  Make sure that there are plenty of people around to witness the prank. (it helps if they are perfect or near strangers and if they are somehow connected to Dad's job or important to his sense of social well-being).

Rule #4:  Make sure Dad is somewhat isolated from the rest of the group as the prank unfolds. (This ensures that at the moment of truth, there are no other possible suspects. Just Dad sitting there alone with that silly, sheepish grin on his face.)

I should have known something was up, when not long after receiving the sinister "gift", my son came up and asked innocently "Dad, where are you going to be sitting for Christmas dinner?"

Had I bothered to look up from the newspaper before answering I undoubtedly would have caught that special twinkle in my son's eye - which always seems to be there just as something very interesting is about to happen.

Instead, I instinctively replied "Oh, in my usual place, I suppose."

"O.K. Good", he stated with an air of deep satisfaction. Then he quickly turned to leave.

Seemed like an odd question. "Why do you ask?" I offered feebly from behind the newspaper.

Too late. He was already off perpetrating the first of what would be a series of humiliating crimes against his own father. Over the next several days, scene after carefully choreographed scene would unfold amidst thunderous applause and laughter - and all at the expense of good old Dad.

Mercifully, the situation finally came to an abrupt and fitting end. The whoopie cushion ultimately became the victim of the same excessive exuberance which characterized the entire sorry charade.

One afternoon, my son ceremoniously inflated the whoopie cushion to the maximum allowable level and placed it carefully in the middle of a queen-sized bed. He then proceeded to climb onto the bed and stand over the whoopie cushion with a look of unbridled anticipation.

Then with a bold announcement to his younger siblings of "Hey guys, listen to this one", he flung his 9 year old body into the air and came down with his bottom squarely on top of the inflated cushion. There was a loud rriiiippp! Upon further examination, the cushion was shown to have exploded violently under the full force of his weight.

And while there was a part of me that was happy to witness the destruction of the dreaded cushion, I must admit that I was almost moved to tears at the look of saddness that spread over my son's perpetually happy face as he examined what was left of his cherished possession. My therapist assures me that these feelings of guilt and remorse are perfectly natural and that in time I will heal. For now I am taking his word for it.

- Christopher Dunn

Body For Life?

Index: Tales From the Home Office

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