…I handed the pop tart back to Jethro.
“What???” He replied, sticking his hands up in front of him, startled. “Why are you giving it back to me?”
I shoved the pop tart further into his airspace. “Take it!” I hissed.
“But,” Jethro pleaded. “I don’t want it.”
“I don’t care. Take it.”
Jethro meekly accepted the pop tart, not quite knowing what to do with the two partially eaten pastries in his hands.
“Go ahead.” I said nodding to the pop tarts. “Eat them.”
“What?” He asked. I watched him try and make eye contact with his brother and sisters. Like they had any kind of understanding of my madness.
“Forget it pal. They can’t help you.” I said. “Eat the pop tarts. Both of them.”
“I don’t care.” I said, cutting him off. The peanut gallery behind me was beginning to crack up at the whole thing. “I’m telling you. Don’t look at them. Don’t listen to them.” I pointed at the untoasted pastries. “You’re going to eat both those pop tarts. And we’re all gonna watch you.”
“Why?” He asked.
“Because.” That’s the bottom line.
“But, nothing. Eat those pop tarts. The rest of us…” I said, nodding to the kids. “Are going to watch you. That’s the end of it.”
“What?” Jethro replied again, clearly not getting my intention.
“Yea. That’s right. The four of us are going to watch you eat both those pop tarts.”
“Why?” Jethro protested. “I don’t want them anymore.”
“Neither does anyone else, now that you’ve taken bites out of both of them.”
“I don’t understand.” Sarah spoke up. “Why do we have to sit here and watch him eat them?”
“Because he’s being punished.” I said, turning toward her.
“I don’t get it.” She said with a shrug. “How is he being punished in this situation?”
“Because he has to eat both of them, even though other people wanted one.”
“So? What kind of punishment is that?” Sarah questioned further. “If anything, it sounds more like we’re being punished.”
I sighed heavily. Long gone are the days of my authority being accepted on face value. “It’s supposed to make him see the consequences of his action. The people he’s hurting by only thinking of himself.”
“I really don’t think he cares, though, Dad.” Sarah replied. Natalia chuckled at her comment.
“He’s not going to enjoy eating them in front of us.” I told her.
“I really don’t think he cares.” Sarah repeated.
“I care.” I said, pointing a thumb at myself. “I care.”
“They’re only pop tarts, dad.”
I looked at her for a long moment. “Sarah. Shut up. And watch your brother eat the pop tarts, alright?!?!?”
“Whatever.” She said with her signature eye roll.
“I don’t get how it’s a punishment either, dad.” Jakob interrupted.
“This is just stupid.” Natalia quickly followed up.
“Shut it, Natalia.” I replied. “Let’s see how you punish your kids when you have them. Which better not be for a long time, by the way.”
“Shouldn’t he get a time out or something?” Jakob continued. “You’re always giving me time outs.”
“Well, maybe if you would listen once in awhile, I wouldn’t give you so many timeouts. “ I said. “Besides, this is worse than a time out.”
“How?” Jakob questioned.
“Trust me. Because it is.” I snapped.
“But he gets to eat both pop tarts!” Jakob pushed.
“It sure seems like we’re the ones being punished.” Sara added.
“Enough!” I said, whipping around to face all of them. “This isn’t a committee, got it? I decide the punishment. If you don’t like it…tough.” I took a deep before turning to face Jethro, still standing there not eating the pop tarts. “And if you keep it up,” I said to the three of them. “I’ll punish you, too.”
“Will I get to eat two pop tarts?” Sarah asked.
I shot her the dirt eye. “Watch it.” I finally turned my attention back to Jethro. “We’re waiting…”
“Fine.” He said with a long sigh. Jethro slowly took a bite of one of the pop tarts. Then another. Then another. I swear it was the longest he’s ever eaten anything. Talk about awkward. The four of us watched him take bite after awkward bite. Finally, it became too excruciating. “Alright! Alrightalrightalright. Enough.” I said waving my hands around, breaking the whole thing up. “Go play.” I said to the peanut gallery. “And you.” I said turning to Jethro, who still had uneaten pop tarts in his hands. “Don’t do this again. One pop tart a day. Got it?”
“Yes, Fadder.” Jethro said remorsefully.
I took the uneaten pastries from him and tossed them in the trash. “Kids.” I swore, walking out of the kitchen. “Why’d it have to be kids…”
To this day, I’m not sure of the effectiveness of that punishment. In my mind, it seemed like a good idear, but I think the point was totally lost on all them. They’ll still bring it up once in awhile, though. And laugh about it…