You know how you say you're never going to be like your parents, but then you have four young children and one day realize that maybe your parents knew something you didn't?
This is kind of like that.
My husband, Jason, used to lament about his traumatic childhood. He is the oldest of five children, and with two little sisters, he was routinely getting in trouble for being rotten.
On days when it was really bad, he says, his parents would put him in the car and drive by the "orphanage," threatening to leave him there if he didn't straighten up. He claims that one time they actually made him pack a bag.
I can't be certain, but I think the first time he told me this story, he got a little emotional about it. So sad.
The other night, I went to a meeting and left the children with Daddy for the evening. I came home just in time to tuck in my girls and say prayers.
Georgia, our 2-year-old, prayed this: "Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this day, please bless that Jethro won't come here, or be under my bed, and that Jethro will not come here and he'll be nice, but not be under my bed. Amen."
Jethro? Jethro who?
By the time I finished my nightly chores, I had forgotten the incident and went to bed without asking dear old Dad if he knew what the baby was so afraid of.
The next morning Rex, 7, woke with a severe stomachache. He had no other symptoms, and I finally weaseled him into telling me what he was so worried about.
"Well," he said, "I just couldn't sleep and my stomach hurt all night. I was having nightmares all night about that guy, Jethro. I don't want to talk about it! Don't talk about it!"
"So," I said to Jason, "you want to clue me in on who Jethro is?"
I relayed the current emotional climate of the household and waited patiently for his explanation.
"Oh, I guess they were listening."
"Listening?" I asked.
"Well, June was pretty awful last night," he said.
This comes as no surprise. June is 5 and gets naughty when she's tired. And when she's hungry, or bored, or if it's Wednesday or lunchtime, or a holiday or any other unfortunate moment of the year. Unbirthdays, you know.
"And?" I said.
"And ... I got desperate. I had to invent Jethro."
"Jethro is the man behind the door at my office."
A few months ago, I dropped June off at her father's office one afternoon for an emergency time-out. He didn't know what to do with her, so he took her to an interrogation room and pointed to the closet door.
"You see that door?"
She nodded with fear and dread and more than a few tears.
"Well, you don't want to find out what's behind that door. If I were you, I'd listen to your mother and stop pinching your sister or someday you might have to open that door. Get it?"
She was an angel for the rest of the week.
"Wait, but who is he?" I asked.
"Well," Jason said sheepishly, "you remember the scary guy off the Goonies movie? That's Jethro. We got on the Internet, and I showed her some pictures -- you know, just to give her a good visual. I guess the other kids were listening -- sorry about that."
I don't know about you, but I can say that, for a week now, all June (or anybody else) has to do is hear the word "Jethro" and she's in line faster than a kid in a theme park.
It's just one more thing for her to talk about someday in therapy; we're going to have some serious baggage by the time she's 9.
Annie Valentine is a wife, mother and columnist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her blog at regardingannie.wordpress.com.