Michelle sat by the phone. She quickly called the airport. Danny’s plane was just about to land. She didn’t want to wait for him. It was better for him to hurry home quickly. She knew he would. So, all adults in the household were busy or on the way home.
She dreaded going upstairs unprepared. “I wish I knew what Mom would do. Even Steph knew Mom till she was five,” she told Comet. The dog sat resting his head on her lap.
She petted him. “Well, I still have one lifeline,” she kidded the dog. “Let’s hope D.J. has the right answer.”
D.J. had just enjoyed a fabulous time with her boyfriend on the ski lift. Since she started college, they'd seen their love blossom. They cuddled by the fireplace, sipping hot chocolate. D.J. began dreaming of marriage.
“Telephone for D.J. Tanner,” shouted a friend. “It's Michelle.”
D.J. rose with a hint of frustration. She grumbled and took the phone. “Michelle, is this really a national emergency? You just ruined a perfectly romantic moment.”
“It is around here. Look, everyone's schedule got mixed up. I'm alone with the twins. And, they're behaving very poorly.”
“And I'm supposed to do what about that?”
Michelle rolled her eyes. “Look, they wouldn’t go to their room right away. I don't know how a mom handles that,” she explained. “You knew Mom.”
She fretted a little. “I feel so mean, too. I talked to their parents. Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky told them I was in charge. But, they still think I'm a meanie.”
D.J. sighed. “Michelle, they're at the age when they'll test all the limits. They need to know how far they can go. They know you love them. But they need those boundaries. You happen to be the one there right now. So, you have to enforce them. It’s just like my first job babysitting outside the family. I was there when Brian was behaving so badly.”
Michelle was ecstatic. “Yes! Here is someone I can copy!” “What did you do” sped out of her mouth. “Tell me, so I can do it, too.”
“I couldn't do anything. He learned his lesson when he got his head stuck in the bannister. I couldn't get it out,” she explained.
“Puh-leease, D.J.. That is not what I needed to hear right now.” “That’s all I need, for them to get hurt. I feel bad enough as it is.”
Despite all the advice she’d gotten, there were still many problems. But, she hoped D.J. would have good advice. She had to have developed some instincts since that first time.
Michelle's sister laughed at her attempt to act authoritative. “Look, Michelle, you need to be loving. Explain it's not you being mean. Rules have nothing to do with who enforces them. They have everything to do with an absolute right and wrong. Yes, they should know to listen when sent to their rooms. We always did. But it's the right and wrong we follow. Not a person.”
That helped a little. It was long-winded. But she was used to that. Her dad often sounded like that . “It’s not just that,” Michelle said. “They wouldn't stop when I yelled ‘Freeze.’ That's something they have to know by four. Don't they? I did.”
She whined slightly. “And, someone else could explain that so much better. Why don’t you talk to them.” The carnival might be gone for her cousins. But, she didn’t want to think about that. And, she certainly wanted someone else to tell them.
D.J. spoke compassionately. “It’s very hard to be like a parent. And, I know this sounds really weird. But, I have less authority than you do right now. You are ten years younger. But, you were placed in command. You’re the captain of the ship. I’m sure their parents didn’t expect all this.” Michelle didn’t think anyone could have expected it to get this bad. “Maybe not. But, that’s the way it goes.”
She told Michelle she was right. “That's a very bad attitude they have. You and Steph were a lot easier to handle. Be honest with them. Talk to them. Make sure they not only hear, but see that you love them. And believe it or not, they might be mad at first. But, if they know you love them, and you show it, that won’t last long at all.”
Michelle thanked her and hung up. She placed her head in her hands. She mumbled as she stood. “I got a little help, I guess.” She supposed they would still see her as a friend. That didn’t make it any easier, though.
She trudged toward the stairs. “If this keeps up, Comet, I'll have gray hair by the time I'm fifteen.” The dog slowly followed her.
Is this what being responsible feels like? No wonder Dad doesn't want me to go to the mall on my bike. Or ride to the park alone. There are so many things to consider! And it's so hard. So many thoughts run through my mind.
As she plodded up the steps, she grew progressively sadder. She didn't want to discipline anyone. But, Nicky and Alex needed boundaries. “What will I do? And will it be enough?”
She shook her head. Maybe it was time to tell her cousins they couldn’t go to the carnival. But, they’d waited so long to attend it. “No. I want to put off even thinking about that. I want to stall as long as possible.”
Were there other possibilities? She considered a few. But, there were too many factors. Her mind boggled. “Just saying ‘you're in big trouble, Mister’ is so much easier. Then, someone else can define what that means.”
She reached the attic apartment. Michelle examined her choices. She gasped, shaking her head. She couldn’t believe she'd even thought...
She sank slowly to the floor outside their bedroom door. She couldn’t imagine hurting her cousins. Removing privileges worked well in their family. Any bad attitude never lasted long.
“None of us has been close to getting spanked. Even with our worst behavior. So, why am I thinking of doing that here? Probably because I’m so desperate to let them go to that carnival.” She wiped away tears. She wished she could ask her mom for help.
She sniffled. “I could give them a very light slap. The word would hurt their feelings enough.” And yet, she didn’t even want to hurt their feelings. Besides, her mom might have said this isn’t bad enough for even that. She probably would come up with something else. Wouldn’t she?
On the other hand, how could she tell her cousins they couldn’t go. After they’d looked forward to for so long?
“Why did I ever want to be in charge? Why did I ever want to make rules? How does Dad, or any other parent, ever do it themselves?” She wept, feeling terribly alone.
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