Michelle glared right through the boys. She held up the video camera. Peanut butter and jelly globs dripped from it. She cried out “look at this, it’s ruined!”
“Does that mean the VCR’s busted, too,” Alex wondered, looking at his shoes.
“Did you put another half a sandwich in the VCR?!”
“You shouldn’t have said that,” Nicky told his brother. “She didn’t know about it.”
“I would have when we tried to watch home movies,” Michelle exclaimed.
“Sorry, Michelle.” Nicky whined remorsefully. “We thought it would eject them.”
Alex admitted he’d done it, too. “We were saving them for later.”
Michelle felt totally unsure of what to say. Without thinking, she blurted out what she felt. “Well, now you have no sandwiches. We can’t watch any tapes for I don’t know how long. You are in big trouble, Misters. So, if you’ve done anything else naughty since I left you two minutes ago, tell me now. So I can be more lenient when I punish you.”
“I can’t believe I said that,” pondered Michelle. She winced. “I don’t want to punish anyone. I can’t stand losing privileges myself. I know they wouldn’t want it.”
And yet, she supposed it was necessary to discipline them. She wanted to show she could be in charge. They needed to learn what they’d done was wrong.
“Why are you gonna punish us,” Nicky whimpered.
Alex continued for his brother. “I thought we were friends.”
“They don’t seem to understand I’m the boss.” She wanted badly to make the best decision. But, how would she know what to do? How did parents make these choices?
Michelle hoped they wouldn’t be grounded. She wanted so badly for them to be able to attend the carnival. They’d talked for weeks about the circus acts and rides. There was even a rodeo planned for tomorrow evening. They’d played horsey with family members for hours. They acted out what they hoped would be the highlight of the weekend.
“They might be grounded if I call their parents. Unless I invent a punishment. Then, I could just ask what they would do,” she thought. “It’s a spur of the moment decision. Maybe this is normal for a parent. I know one thing. I’m not going to let them miss that carnival.”
“You broke the rules. You destroyed something by doing that. We probably won’t get these fixed for at least a week.” She decided she’d take their TV privileges away. However, she didn’t tell them that.
Nicky was sad at being yelled at. He thought out loud. “How come you’re so bossy now?”
Michelle said that she would call their parents. “If you don’t want me as boss, we’ll see what they say.” “Then, they won’t question it. Plus, I still get credit for being in charge.” She still wanted to decide what to do. She instructed Nicky to pick up the phone in the kitchen. She would call on the living room one.
“This takes effort,” considered Michelle as she waited for an answer. “A lot more than I ever thought it could. Even if I make quick decisions, I wonder if they’re the right ones.”
Her Uncle Jesse answered. Michelle quickly explained the scheduling mixup. She heard Jesse telling her Aunt Becky. Becky snuggled beside Jesse. Now, both could hear Michelle talk.
“Are they all right? What’s going on there,” Becky asked speedily.
Michelle didn’t want Jesse and Becky being scared for them. Jesse sounded a little concerned already. He tried to hide it, but she could tell by his voice. The two had a very close relationship. They confided a lot in each other. “How are the boys,” he asked.
“Well...” How would she describe it? She really just wanted him to explain the rules. She asked Nicky to pick up the kitchen phone. He did. “They’re...a little ornery. I was hoping you could talk to them. Here they are.”
She heard Nicky’s “hi, Daddy. She handed her phone to Alex, who also said “hello.”
Michelle listened with Alex. She caught bits of her Uncle Jesse’s and Aunt Becky’s talk. They directed their children to obey the rules. They told Nicky and Alex Michelle had authority over them until someone older came. The twins accepted this.
“Can she punish us,” Alex wondered. Michelle hoped he wouldn’t reveal what they’d done.
Their parents assumed the query meant a timeout. “Yes. If she does you have to obey,” they said. Jesse and Becky excitedly reminded their boys of the carnival.
Nicky walked back into the living room. Michelle gave the boys a little squeeze. She ordered them to their room in a whisper, so Jesse and Becky couldn’t hear. She told them to think about how they wrecked the VCR and camera. They ran upstairs.
Michelle picked up her line. She thanked her Uncle Jesse. “Now, let’s pretend that sandwiches were put in a VCR and a video camera. Just for pretend.” “And please don’t say you would ground them for the weekend.” She couldn’t stand to break that kind of news to someone. She didn’t even like the thought of disciplining at all.
Becky spoke decisively. “They would need a very logical consequence for that.”
“What does that mean”, Michelle asked herself.
“They haven’t done that, have they,” Jesse wondered. Before his niece could answer, Jesse sighed. “This is just so weird. I can’t believe what’s going on here.”
“You’re not the only one.” “Well...” What do I say now? I don’t want to lie. But, I don’t want my cousins to think I’m mean. “I mean, as an example. Should I just do what I think is best?”
“We’d talk about it,” Jesse remarked. “We’d want input, being the parents. That’s why I’d tell your dad and let him handle it with you.”
That wasn’t what she wanted to hear. She wondered what would upset her cousins more. If she delivered punishments from their parents? Or, if she punished them herself? After all, she and her uncle had a very close, friendly relationship. Jesse told her dad right away when she’d done something wrong once. And, Michelle had been very upset with being grounded.
Luckily, her Aunt Becky’s next comment relieved her. “Children our boys’ ages should never have to wait long. They see time differently. It won’t have the effect it should if you wait hours. Let alone till tomorrow. They would need a timeout, at least. If you didn’t make them sit in chairs I could see it. You have two to handle. But, they should be in their room.”
Jesse spoke solemnly. “Listen, munchkin, you and I go back a long way.” She agreed. She loved his pet name for her. “We’ve had lots of talks about what’s right and what’s wrong. I don’t like what’s happened. But, now we have to work with what we’ve got.” He paused. “I can count on you to do what we would do. Can’t I?”
“Yes, as long as you don’t keep them from the carnival,” she considered.
He told her they would fly back quickly. “If you made a decision before then, we’d honor it. Just like with Danny’s or Joey’s. I know you. And, I can’t see you disciplining them way more or less than what’s deserved.”
Michelle jumped excitedly. “So, they can still go...I mean, I wouldn’t have to say they can’t go to the carnival if that happened.”
Becky responded. “A week without videos or tapes is a logical consequence. Plus, a few days without TV. No cartoons or anything,” She tried to explain her term in simple language. “It’s entertainment that they’ve ruined.”
Michelle blurted before realizing it. “Great. That’s just what I was going to say...” She sighed. How could she have given that away?
Jesse asked if they’d done that.
She decided she’d better admit it now. “Yeah,” she spoke guiltily. “I just didn’t want them to be upset if you said they couldn’t go to the carnival.”
“Michelle, we reminded them of that,” Jesse reported. “It is an option if they’re really naughty. But, we need to know these things. Then, we can talk to them. They might then behave without us doing that. They’re at the age when they’ll really test you,” her uncle explained.
Becky spoke abruptly. “When did Danny call?” Michelle didn’t recall. But, she thought the message was from about ten. “Honey, do you know how long it takes to fly from there?” She didn’t. “It’ll be at least an hour till he’s home. We’ll try to get back right now.”
“Oh...but Stephanie will be home from shopping any minute. You talked to them. They’ll behave from now on.” “At least, they’d better.”
She could hear her aunt and uncle. They talked in the background. “Look...you’re right. They’ll be good, I’m sure,” Becky announced. “We still want to come, just in case. The weather could keep your dad cooped up all day. We don’t want anyone babysitting overnight.”
“I still feel funny giving you this speech, munchkin. But, you know where all the emergency numbers are? And the first aid stuff? You know how to use them?”
Michelle nodded. She recited a laundry list of things. Including the locations of fire extinguishers. “Poison Control, police, fire, ambulance by every phone. I know 911 by heart. It wouldn’t be Dad’s house without all these precautions.” She was glad to hear her uncle chuckle. Her dad believed strongly in keeping things very secure. He made sure his children always acted with safety in mind.
Jesse suggested she find a babysitter. “I know your dad says not to tell anyone you’re alone. But, you wouldn’t be asking for one for yourself. You’d be hiring one for the twins under our orders. Just tell the sitter we said to come. And your dad or Stephanie will pay them.” Michelle liked the idea.
Michelle thanked them. She was elated. Her cousins could still go to the carnival. Not only that, but they understood she had complete control.
“Now, to find Nicky and Alex. It’s more work than I ever imagined,” she pondered. Michelle felt even more comfortable with her idea for punishment. It was close to her Uncle Jesse’s and Aunt Becky’s. Maybe she could make rules. She closed her eyes and started up the steps.
She opened them just in time. Her dad’s bowling ball bounded rapidly toward her!
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