The phone rang. She decided to answer it. Maybe someone could tell her how to handle this. She understood what her dad said about all the distractions at a place like the mall, or the park. She knew she should march outside. But, what would she say?
Joey was on the other line. He’d called before he began his performance. He wanted to ensure everyone was all right. “I phoned the airport for you. Your dad’s flight will land any minute. It might have even landed. Did you hear from him?”
“No, but listen. I’m glad you called. Nicky and Alex just went outside to ride their tricycles. But, they can’t play outside. They know that!” She didn’t say she’d grounded them.
Joey tried to calm her. “Look, Michelle. I can tell you’re mad. But, we’re not dealing with an older kid. They’re only four. At that age, they can’t always remember a punishment’s there. They have a hard time relating to time. So they need a gentle reminder. Especially if there have been distractions. Have there?”
“Where do I begin?” “Yeah. So what am I supposed to do?”
Shock filled Joey’s voice. “You?! Stephanie’s not even back?!”
Michelle rolled her eyes. “I wish!” “No, Uncle Joey, I’m still the one. Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky are flying home now. I won’t have to put them to bed tonight,” she teased him.
“Good. You’ve kept your sense of humor.” Joey explained what she should do. “Gently remind them they were grounded. I remember your first punishment. You came out of it to test us. You had to learn you would be made to sit in the corner. Your dad would hold you down for a moment if he had to. After that, you knew your limit.
“But, privileges are different. A couple times, you watched TV out of habit, for instance. We just calmly told you it wasn’t allowed, and why. Then, you obeyed. So, walk them inside. If they don’t obey right away, you need to be firm.”
“Again, many more questions come with the answers. Is it always this complicated alone anywhere? Does Dad always have it this hard raising us? Probably.”
Michelle wasn’t sure what “be firm” meant. “Meaning what?”
“Well, you must have talked to Jesse. What did he say?”
She tried to recall. She could have written a book with all her advice. It swirled in her head. But, all that knowledge wasn’t helping. She needed to know how to use it. And, she didn’t.
She shrugged. “They’ll go along with what I do if it’s not too much or too little.”
“Well, all I can say is, ‘good luck.’”
“I’ll need it.” “Thanks, anyway, Uncle Joey. I’ve talked to lots of people.”
Joey told her it was a lot like show business. “All that rehearsing is nothing like being on stage, huh?”
“That’s for sure. Oh, well, I’ve gotten through other problems. I can make it through this.” She thanked him and hung up the phone.
She started outside. However, the phone rang again. Uncle Jesse’s plane was taking off in a few minutes. “They’re doing boarding calls. Are the boys okay?”
“Yeah, but listen.” She tried to tell the devoted father what they were doing.
He had no time. “Look, if you’re still in charge, just remember what I said. I know you can do it. Gotta go.” He hung up.
Michelle shook her head. “He might know I can do it. But, I don’t.”
She stepped coatless into the back yard. With a half grin, she approached them. “Nicky, Alex, you’re grounded, remember? You can’t play outside today. I’m sorry about that.”
Her cousins slowly halted their tricycles. Michelle nearly jumped for joy. “Great, they’re listening.” As the three reached the door, the boys apologized. “Sorry,” said each.
Suddenly, they got ornery looks in their eyes. They gazed at each other. They were egged on by being together. It was two against one. They knew they had to go inside. But, they wanted to see what happened. They raced out to their tricycles. They pedaled as fast as they could.
“I should have held their hands. Or not ordered them with the books. Or made them listen. Or a million other things.” “Hey, get in here. You know you're supposed to stay inside,” she commanded them. She tried to muster a stern voice. It sounded like she was pleading a little.
“Try and catch us,” they shouted joyfully. They rode in large circles.
“Freeze,” ordered Michelle. The twins shocked her by not stopping.
Her dad had explained it was important for a family to have a one word command. A child - or adult - had to stop all movement. This was to prevent a child from running into the road, for instance. It could be said in a normal voice sometimes. That helped children practice. She’d done that with the cookies. However, it was only to be shouted at very important times.
Michelle hoped that had been crucial enough. It probably was. They were blatantly disobeying the rules.
She stomped outside in a huff. Her eyes contained an angry look. They'd gone from being annoying and ornery to being truly disobedient.
“Come on, catch us,” they joked. There was a playful, “I wanna see what you do” look in Nicky and Alex's faces. They didn’t really want to disobey. They only wanted to see what she said. They wouldn't have dared to do this to their parents.
“At least this shows they know I’m in charge. Now, what do I do with that?”
Michelle finally caught up to Nicky. She corralled Alex soon after that. She squeezed their hands and managed to twist the door handle with one. She kneed the door open. Michelle marched her cousins inside. She stood them in front of her, and glared at them.
“I wonder what Mom would do.” This was a major test of any parent’s ability..
“Nicholas and Alexander Katsopolis,” Michelle lectured. She shook her finger at them. “You are in really big trouble, Misters!”
Alex quivered slightly. “You don't have to tell our mom and dad.”
“Yeah, please,” Nicky continued for him. His voice trembled. They were concerned about Michelle’s angry glare. “You’re our friend.”
She scowled. Her hands rested on her hips. “I’m not playing anymore. This must be what Uncle Jesse meant about being careful about what I asked for.”
She could find no words. She considered calling their folks. But, they wouldn’t be there now. Nor would anyone else. “Besides, delivering orders from them would not be the same as being in charge. And, they said I had total control.”
Michelle assured her cousins she was the boss. “Your parents told you that. I won’t call them. I’ll decide what happens.” She commanded them to march straight to their room. She forgot about separating them. “I’ll want to talk to both at once.”
Her shouting disturbed the twins. Michelle sounded angrier than she had ever been. This was the furious reaction they expected from an adult.
The boys quivered. They tried to plead with her. “No, we want you to be our friend. Not our Mommy,” came Nicky.
“Yeah, let's have fun together. Please,” Alex begged. Both began quickly saying “please.”
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this.” “That is a very bad attitude. I'm in charge. I have ordered you to your room. You are supposed to go! Or do I have to drag you there myself?” She didn't want to drag them. Still, she rolled up her sleeves.
Michelle had said “you're in big trouble, Mister” for fun. She wanted seem more of a boss. Especially when she was a preschooler. At times, it was also to act more mature.
Now, she had no clue what else could be done. And yet, she was the boss.
Michelle stomped toward them. They finally walked toward the stairs. Michelle followed very closely. “Okay, we'll go,” said an upset Alex.
“Yeah. So you'll stop bein' mean to us,” his brother yelled back.
Michelle’s scowl turned into a frown. She looked deflated. She hated being called mean.
“And I thought if I was in charge I could make the rules. And, then I'd have so much fun. I thought Dad had it so easy. What a rip off.” A tear welled up in her eye. “Why does this have to be so hard,” she whined.
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