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Around midnight on Saturday, I step into my closet as I brush my teeth before bed. Sticking out between two pairs of sweatpants is a tiny slip of paper with a message in Clara’s handwriting:

“Look under your pillow.”

I smile. She’s been bragging about the pranks that she’s been planning for me, so at last they have begun.

I finish brushing my teeth, walk over to the bed, and lift my pillow. I find a similar scrap of paper with a different message:

‘Don’t go to sleep.”

The message is followed by a face with an X for each eye, signifying a dead person.

My daughter has warned me that if I go to sleep, I will die.

A few thoughts race through my mind:

  1. As a person with post traumatic stress disorder, it is not uncommon for me to dream about the armed robbery that resulted in my PTSD. Though these nightmares don’t ever kill me, I’ve told Elysha that I spend many nights “trying to stay alive as people try to kill me again and again.” So this note isn’t as far off as Clara might think.
  2. My daughter’s prank involves a threat of physical violence. A little surprising coming from a child who wouldn’t hurt a flea.
  3. I can’t believe she set all this up then went to bed. Most kids (and many adults) would need to immediately draw my attention to the prank, unable to delay gratification.

Staring at this note, I was so impressed.

The next morning, I told Clara how impressed I was with her prank, even if it threatened murder.

“But how did you set that up and go to bed?” I asked. “Most kids would want to watch me find the notes.”

“You taught me,” she said. “You taught me that the best pranks can’t always happen when you’re watching. You just need to know it’s going to happen.”

I taught her.

Nothing made me happier that day.