Fan Fiction - Written by Doug Fowler - Television Universe

D.J.'s Fourth Of July Thanksgiving
Written by: Doug Fowler

A/N: I updated "D.J.'s Fourth of July Thanksgiving" as I've studied & talked w/many who say D.J. had to punish much earlier than I had her doing for Michelle to know right from wrong and not be really confused about what's right or out of control. I put the first timeout a bit after the episode "Beach Boy Bingo" where Michelle is painting on her easel, then suddenly goes to painting on her dresser. Danny simply says "no Michele, the paper" while trying to wipe it off - he never punished her, which to him seems to mean not even removing her paints/crayons when she does it. Yet, someone had to teach her coloring on other stuff was wrong, likely w/timeout though granted not all kids need timeout or to have stuff taken away for that particular thing. It's just a logical target. The banana trick is one I've heard numerous parents have used to teach their children about running into the road.

I added part that discusses her first punishment from Danny, so go about 2/3 from the end as a 2nd chapter b/c this was so long ago sit might not be noticed that I changed it if I just replaced the story with a longer one. She knows the concept of her being a "bad girl" ("Bye, Bye, Birdie"), and will repeat things like "go to your room" - plus the fact Danny wonders even in that episode where she first gets sent to her room why the girls didn't stop her from swimming in the kitchen, and Michelle obeys D.J. when told to rake up the mess she made. I wrote this to explain how D.J. played a part in helping in the discipline as much as she could, though she wasn't as dedicated to being mom-like as in the books.

Prologue: December, 1988

D.J. Tanner, a few months shy of twelve, was still thinking about that fabulous Beach Boys concert she'd been part of a few weeks earlier. She was awestruck at the fact she'd been on stage in front of so many people. Almost as amazing was the fact she and her dad, Danny, liked the same group, a weird thought for the preteen.

Danny had lost his wife, Pam, the mother of D.J., nearly seven-year-old Stephanie, and two-year-old Michelle, a little over 18 months ago now. He still seemed to have problems dealing with that. Not only with his compulsive cleaning, but with this...

"Dad, you shouldn't just let Michelle color on her walls," she said, trying not to sound harsh, as he prepared to clean the mess. D.J. and Stephanie, who shared a room, had walked in to see the markings.

"Deej, she's just a little girl. She turned two at the beginning of last month. She doesn't know any better."

"Right, because she's never gotten a timeout. When she has, after a while she will."

"When I think she's ready, I'll punish her, I promise. She just doesn't need timeout yet."

Stephanie pointed to the scribbling. "Oh. So, I guess you'll just put a frame around that and call it a picture?"

"Look..." Danny sighed. He explained again how he'd just redirected her to her paper when she painted on her dresser a while back, and a few other times recently with crayons. "I tell her 'on the paper,' and she listens. Usually. Look, I just use WD-40 and a damp cloth and it'll be off in 15 minutes." He began to apply it; cleaning helped him to forget about Pam's death. Indeed, having to clean up after this was why he didn't get as upset as most parents would - crayon stains allowed him to take part in his obsession, just as Michelle's painting stains had weeks before.

"Dad, that's not the point. Michelle isn't a really bad girl - yet. But, didn't whatever book you got that helpful hint from also talk about the need to teach children right from wrong? You were putting Steph in timeout right after she turned two; I remember."

"Yes, only for climbing where she shouldn't. I've always been very protective. But, I didn't start with you till you were several months past three."

D.J. didn't want to hurt him by saying Mom was alive then to do it with her before then - she didn't want to think about it herself, really. She simply asked, "Are Uncle Jesse and Joey really that good at it, though?"

"Well, no." In fact, Jesse wasn't always free of his rebellious ways yet, and Jesse's dad had hollered so much that Jesse hated to think of giving a timeout to anyone, afraid he'd become like his dad. Plus, he had a very close relationship with Michelle; just like a mother, and didn't want to harm that. He was Pam's younger brother, and he'd moved into Stephanie's old room on the second floor. Joey was a kid at heart, and had lots of problems enforcing limits on even the oldest two; he would never do it with Michelle, either. He lived in the basement, and was Danny's best friend. Jesse and Joey had been living there and helping out for almost a year and a half.

Stephanie had seen Michelle out in the hall, and took her by the hand into her room. She pointed at the crayon markings. "Bad girl, Michelle!"

"Pretty," Michelle countered.

"Michelle, coloring on paper is pretty. Coloring on walls is bad!" D.J. said shaking a finger. She then picked her up and carried her to a small chair. "Unless you want to do this, Dad."

" don't have to, Deej," Danny said as she sat her in the chair and turned her to face the wall. "Deej, come on. I mean, aw, look at her cry. See, she's sad, she's scared because you yelled at her. I mean, you don't really want to see her sad, do you?"

D.J. sighed. She should have started to be more proactive, she considered, but it was just too hard. There wasn't the bond there would be if she was the one getting her up and so on in the morning. But, with Jesse on the second floor, too, there wasn't the need for her to be a mom-like figure. Jesse was always up with her, playing with her, getting her dressed, and everything.

Danny had been rambling for a minute or so, the way he often did. He tried to explain Michelle never hurt anyone. She hadn't tried to play with matches yet. Finally, he gave up. He knew this was what Pam would have done - indeed, he'd ignored a couple things that she would have timed out for the last few weeks. He knew he had been defeated. As Christmas neared, he sadly told himself that D.J. was right. And, the worst thing was, this was one more thing that he'd have to go through without Pam. How could he ever do it, he asked himself.

Softly, he said, "One minute per age, Deej," to ensure she not get too tough on Michelle yet. Timeout could be lengthened later if need be, till it was "in her room till she could be a good girl." If he could ever bring himself to do that. But, usually one or at most two minutes per age was plenty.

D.J. was trying hard not to get emotional herself. She'd done this out of frustration, in a way, as she'd worried that Danny would never punish her. But, she hated to see Michelle sad, too. It broke her heart to think of hurting her sister's feelings. But, another part her knew it had to be done. She prayed silently, "If I ever made Mom feel like this, I'm sorry."

Then, she turned to face Danny. She sensed what he was doing. He was implicitly saying, "I want you to do this, I can't think about it." She didn't like it, but she'd have to accept it.

"I promise. One minute per age." She looked down at Michelle, who was now simply sniffling, and then her watch. She turned the chair around and told her she could get out, and reminded her of the rule - only color on paper. After a low "I sowwy" from Michelle, D.J. smiled. Michelle would learn right from wrong.

Danny, however, continued to think about Pam. If only Michelle could stay a baby forever, he told himself. He couldn't think of her growing up yet. He was so glad he had a girl like D.J. who was so determined. Like Pam, she always wanted to be the best.

July, 1989

"This time, I'm going to thaw the turkey," D.J. remarked to nobody in particular. She was making candied yams in the family kitchen.

Her best friend, Kimmy Gibbler, was seated at the table, as was Stephanie. Kimmy looked out the window at the still bright sky. "You might wanna check the calendar, Deej. Tomorrow's the Fourth of July."

D.J. chuckled. "I know. But last Thanksgiving our Uncle Jesse did everything; he wanted to impress Becky. Except Steph did make Mom's pumpkin pie again."

"But I let Uncle Jesse carry it," Stephanie reported. Two years ago, D.J. had tried to put together the dinner that first Thanksgiving, but she'd forgotten to thaw the turkey. Her dad had then burned it trying to cook it really fast. Stephanie had baked a good pie, but it had fallen on the floor.

Danny came downstairs carrying Michelle. The little girl was already in her pajamas. "Deej, I have to get to the station for my dinner..." He looked at the spread on the counter - yams, green beans, an unthawed turkey, and ears of corn. "Whoa, what's all this?"

"It's for the Fourth of July picnic tomorrow, Dad."

"I think D.J. has her holidays mixed up," Kimmy remarked.

D.J. laughed. "Come on, Kimmy, corn's traditional for the Fourth. So are potatoes, which I'm gonna have to peel tomorrow morning. The only thing totally unusual is the turkey and stuffing, and I won that turkey on the radio in a trivia contest last month." She was very good at knowing just when to dial in for such contests; she'd won the Beach Boys tickets in such a contest, too, and they'd come to pick her and her family up in a limo. She'd won a couple other small prizes at various times, once when dialing for Pam back when her mom was alive.

She finished by saying, "I thought it wouldn't be as good if we saved it till Thanksgiving." She went over to the oven and placed the yams into it.

"Uh...honey...that's really sweet, but I wish you'd told me before tonight." D.J. looked at him curiously as he put Michelle down. The little girl promptly walked over to look at the oven.

"No, Michelle, that's hot," D.J. announced. When Michelle gave her a look that said she was determined to touched it, Danny hollered freeze at the same time D.J. did. Michelle obeyed.

"Aw, that's my good girl, you stopped right away." Danny gave her a big hug and kiss, then set her down again. When Michelle tried the same thing, thinking it a game, Stephanie got up and led her over to the table. Michelle sat squirming on Stephanie's lap.

"Nice going, Steph; she needs a timeout if she's going to keep trying to touch the stove, anyway," D.J. remarked. "You stay on Stephanie's lap and settle down for a minute." Michelle hung her head and stopped squirming when D.J. said the word "timeout" - she knew timeout was for something bad.

Danny continued after the little drama. "You girls have been so good at teaching her to freeze. And, I'm glad you make her sit in a chair or something to settle down for a while when she tries to touch a hot oven or something. I mean, I know I should, but..."

"Or like when she was painting on the walls. Dad, it's not just to settle, it's punishment."

"Deej, please, don't use that word in front of my little girl."

D.J. grinned sadly. "All right," she finally said. She knew she wouldn't get anywhere with this argument. Danny just refused to punish Michelle. All he had to do was put her in timeout. But, now they were at the point where she could be placed in her room for something even, and for more than two minutes - these "timeouts" were starting to lose effectiveness, especially since D.J. wasn't always there. She feared she might have to put her in her room and lengthen the time by a minute or two. It was tempting to keep using the chair - but she knew eventually, Danny would start punishing, and he'd do just like Pam and he had done with the girls when older. They always were in their rooms as punishment.

"Anyway, Dad, what's wrong?"

"Well, Joey and your Uncle Jesse will be recording fireworks and parade stuff tomorrow. And I've got my show," he continued, smiling proudly at his oldest daughter. "I was hoping you could entertain Michelle and Stephanie for a couple hours - especially Michelle. Steph might go to a friend's house."

As Danny spoke, Stephanie finally lost her grip; Michelle squirmed out of her lap and playfully ran toward the stove again, testing the limit.

This time, D.J. scooped Michelle up right next to the stove and hollered "no" more forcefully. Michelle ornery smirk quickly left, and she gazed at D.J. with puppy dog eyes. D.J. walked her over to a stool at the bar and said, "You were told to stay away from the hot stove. You did not listen. You sit right there for timeout!" Michelle sniffled and obeyed. She hadn't liked the yelling. But, D.J. was having to be a little more forceful. The extra timeout length, while Michelle wouldn't understand why quite yet, would really help, as it would remind her more she was being naughty when being punished. Even a minute longer would be a lot at her age - 50% more in fact. In her room, she already began to decide, it might be two minutes more would work best, though she might try one more if it wasn't something really dangerous.

"Deej, you don't have to yell like that. Just distract her with other things. I'm sure she'd stop after so long," Danny remarked, muttering "like eight or ten or thirty times."

"Dad, trust me on this one. Steph was the same way at that age. And since you refuse to punish Michelle, sometimes I have to take matters into my own hands. Especially since your distracting her didn't keep her from painting in her room with her paintbrush. She needed timeout from me a few times, that's what's stopped her from coloring on other things."

Danny sighed and put a hand on D.J.'s shoulder. "You're just like Mom; you always want to try hard and be the best, don't you?" He mulled it over as Uncle Jesse and Joey came up from the basement. They'd been working on the music and scripts for some commercials. After a couple minutes had passed, D.J. lifted Michelle off the stool and Michelle ran over to them. "Okay, I guess you're right. She does need to have limits like that." He knew Pam would say the same thing.

"She's really a good kid. And she listens most of the time right away. If you were to tell me tomorrow you're going to start enforcing timeouts I wouldn't try to be tough." She didn't totally agree with him, but she knew she should respect the fact that he didn't want to punish his youngest yet. "But, I know it's not like you're gonna wait till she's almost four before ever punishing her yourself." She never could have imagined how prophetic her joke would be.

Danny chuckled. "I can't imagine ever having to punish my little princess." He really hoped that D.J. would be able to do enough it would eliminate any problems, and he'd never have to, though he knew in the back of his mind that was impossible. He looked back toward D.J. after gazing at Michelle for a moment. "It can't be too different from what I would do, or it'll be too confusing. Just a firm no' is all she should need. She's staying away from it now. Although, I guess your timeouts aren't too tough on her." He sighed. He still hated to see her sad. That face reminded him of Pam, and of the fact she wasn't around, and so on.

"Sure, Dad. Don't worry. I don't like having to be tough myself."

Danny continued. "We'll thaw the turkey overnight. I'll help with the stuffing, and then you won't have much to do tomorrow." He knew she really wanted to make up for her first Thanksgiving mistake - or, as she considered it, a debacle.

"Thanks, Dad. You're the best," D.J. declared happily, embracing him.

D.J. jogged downstairs early the next morning and checked the turkey - it was completely thawed. She would cook it early, and all she had to do was make sure Michelle didn't touch the hot oven.

Stephanie and Michelle came down right after D.J. had started the turkey cooking.

"Watch, Michelle, that oven's hot," Stephanie said as D.J. turned around.

"That's a no-no," Michelle declared, shaking her finger at the oven.

"That's right, munchkin. Okay, who wants what for breakfast?" Jesse asked as he entered the kitchen.

"Oucecream," Michelle declared.

"Ice cream," Stephanie, D.J. and Jesse said at the same time, while Joey walked into the kitchen from the living room.

Joey raised his eyebrows. "Wow, we're allowed to have ice cream for breakfast?"

Jesse looked at him oddly and said, "How bout some pancakes?" The group nodded. "Hey, Joey, show D.J. that spread in the refrigerator."

D.J. was amazed - there were her sweet potatoes, together with some mashed potatoes, corn, and stuffing. A couple more traditional Fourth of July foods were also there. Cole slaw replaced cranberries in the combined meal, for instance.

"Your dad and Uncle Jesse put the rest together after you went to bed. So all you have to worry about is the turkey," Joey remarked.

"Oh, thanks, guys, you're the greatest. You too, Dad," she remarked as he walked into the kitchen with his briefcase. She embraced all of them.

"Thanks. Take good care of Michelle, Deej," Danny remarked. "I'll be home around three."

"Gotcha, Dad. When are you two leaving?" she asked the others as Danny left. "Maybe I can take Stephanie and Michelle to the park for a bit."

Joey agreed. "Not till eleven or so, you'll have time. Hopefully we can pull that bird out before we go." D.J. put that on her list of things to do. She was thankful, in a way, that she didn't have to fool with the rest of dinner. She would be going into Junior High in a couple months, and wouldn't have nearly as much time to spend with her sisters.

"And if you have any problems," Danny noted, "call the Gibblers about the gobbler right away."

"I will, Dad, don't worry."

D.J. and Stephanie walked on either side of Michelle to the corner. "Hold our hands," Stephanie said sweetly as she and D.J. offered a hand for Michelle to grab.

"No," she said, folding her arms.

"Yes, Michelle." D.J. grabbed an arm, but Michelle began to pull at her. "Michelle, you will not get to go to the park unless you hold our hands." At the decisive tone, Michelle chose to obey. It's a good thing Michelle is usually pretty compliant, she said to herself. She'd had some battles when she first made Michelle sit, but usually she was good.

At the next street, Michelle again refused. "Pretend I'm a blind person," Stephanie suggested, "and you have to guide me across." Michelle looked at her strangely.

D.J. chuckled. "Nice try, Steph, but she doesn't understand that stuff at her age. If you were being like that, I'd probably use that idea."

"If I was being like that, Dad would say I needed a nap," Stephanie retorted.

"Well, he does with Michelle, too, that's not punishment to him, at least. Now..." D.J. quickly jerked Michelle back as she started to dart into the street to see a dog near the park. "No!" came the booming voice. "You never run into the street like that. You could get hit by a car and killed. You know you always hold someone's hand and never cross the street by yourself."

Stephanie bounced nervously as Michelle cried a little. "Can I lecture her, too? That scared me."

D.J. bit her lip as she held the toddler against her legs for a timeout of sorts. She hated to see her baby sister's feelings hurt. She also wanted to avoid crying because it would make Stephanie more nervous. "I'm sorry, Michelle, but I had to scold you," she muttered under her breath.

"Hey, we didn't say freeze,'" Stephanie remarked.

D.J. glanced down as she remarked sternly, "There was no time. Besides, Michelle needs to learn to obey the rules more often than when someone says freeze,' right, Michelle?" Michelle nodded slowly.

D.J. sighed, and tried to sound extra sweet. How do mothers do it, she asked herself. "Are you going to be a good girl, now?"

"I be good girl," Michelle promised. She held D.J.'s hand, and Stephanie held the other one, and they crossed the street into the park.

D.J. and her sisters played on the swings and slide for about an hour before walking home. They passed a rock on the way out of the park. "Hey, Michelle," D.J. said as the toddler walked over to try and stand on it, "do you have something to say? Here's that rock where we came last month."

Michelle stood and waved. She must think she's on top of the world standing on that rock; she's higher than Stephanie right now, D.J. pondered. "Hi, people," she shouted.

D.J. laughed. "Michelle, we only did Declaration Rock because you got rid of your last diaper. It's only for really great accomplishments."

"Mom used to walk with us just to stand on this rock. I remember when I was four, and I learned to read, we came here," Stephanie remarked. "I'm so glad we can share this with Michelle."

"Yeah, me too. Let's try to get home before Uncle Jesse and Joey leave. Come on, Michelle." She remained on the rock and folded her arms. "Off you go. Wheee," D.J. remarked, lifting her off and putting her back on the ground. She felt relieved to be able to make obeying fun. She hoped she didn't have to lecture like she had again.

"Don't wanna leave," Michelle declared emphatically.

"Michelle, there's lots of fun stuff to do at home. Come on," Stephanie declared with excitement. She never had to fake it - she always got very excited.

Sensing Michelle's ambivalence, D.J. said, "I know you had fun, but now it's time to have fun at home. We can have fun at the park later. Now we get to go back to our nice, cozy house, and see all your stuffed animals, and have so much fun playing in the yard and eating a nice, yummy lunch." D.J. considered that she was as much an advertiser as her Uncle Jesse and Joey. Michelle quickly agreed to go home, as she always did to such enthusiasm. It wasn't that hard to get her to behave, all things considered; D.J. knew there were some much worse Twos outside her family.

Still, she dreaded the day such things might not work. But, Michelle did seem well conditioned to it, and generally listened. She would have listened very well if D.J. was the mother figure the little girl yearned to be like, instead of Jesse being the one - or, of course, if Pam were still around. It also would have been better if Danny reported Michelle's misbehavior to her rather than letting D.J. find out herself. At least Dad supports me, she told herself.

D.J. felt proud of how creative she'd been. Michelle was normally a good kid. However, she still seemed reluctant to hold D.J.'s and Stephanie's hands. Once they were back in their yard and Michelle let go of their hands, she decided to take off running.

"Freeze, Michelle," D.J. hollered.

Michelle obeyed, rather than running into the road. Still, D.J. was fed up. What could she do to teach Michelle that was also creative, so she wouldn't be yelling?

Suddenly, she had an idea. "We need to do something about her before she runs into the road and gets hit by a car," she announced to Stephanie. Uncle Jesse and Joey were just about to leave as they walked into the house. "Steph, bring me a banana."

Stephanie wrinkled her nose. "A what?" She walked into the kitchen shaking her head. "And she thinks I'm weird."

D.J. met the mens' curious gazes. "You'll see. I need a brick or heavy stone or something. Like what we hold the tarp over the picnic table with in the winter. Thanks, Steph," she said, turning to Stephanie and retrieving the banana.

"Gotcha," Joey said.

Jesse grabbed his arm. "What, you actually understand what she's doing?"

"No, but it would be entertaining to watch."

After the brick was found, Jesse said, "Deej, that turkey's not quite done, make sure you check it after you do...whatever it is you do with a brick and a banana." They quickly left, and Stephanie grabbed Michelle's hand. The three girls went into the back yard.

Kimmy met them back there. "Hey, Deej, happy fourth. Say, I'll bet you didn't know they have a Fourth of July in Britain."

D.J. laughed at Stephanie's confused face. "Sure they do, they just don't celebrate it."

"I would - I'd celebrate not having you as a British subject," Stephanie cracked.

D.J. tried hard to hide her mirth, but she couldn't totally. Kimmy was somewhat annoying, and D.J. did enjoy the little jokes at her expense sometimes. Kimmy didn't mind them, after all. She only wished Stephanie and Kimmy got along better. Then again, part of Stephanie's problem was that she wanted D.J. all to herself. And, Stephanie did need to share.

"Okay, just sit down and watch, Kimmy, we have to show Michelle something. Michelle, feel this brick." She touched it. "Now try to lift it."

The toddler was stunned. "Whoa, heavy."

"Feels hard, doesn't it? Like a car?" Michelle nodded. "Okay, now feel this banana. No, don't take the skin off." Michelle patted the banana.

Stephanie suddenly got the idea. "See, Michelle, it's really soft and kinda squishy. Feel your skin once." Michelle rubbed it, and Steph pushed on it. "Push on it, see, you're soft."

"Yeah, really soft. It's the same with ours, see?" D.J. took Michelle's hand and pressed it between hers.

Michelle patted Kimmy on the head. "Hers is hard."

Stephanie turned to Kimmy. "See, even the little ones can tell."

"Riiiight, now Michelle, what do you think would happen if this." D.J. held up the brick. "Hit this." She held up the banana. "Really hard."

Michelle shrugged. "I don't know."

"It's the same thing that would happen if a hard thing like a car hit your body," D.J. said, pointing at Michelle. "This is what would happen if a car hit you." She placed the banana on the ground, then dropped the brick from eye level. It squished the banana totally flat. Michelle's eyes bugged out, and her mouth flew open. "That is why you never go into the street unless you are holding my hand, or Daddy's, or Uncle Jesse's, or Joey's."

Michelle continued to gawk at the splattered remains of the banana. "I'll hold VERY tight."

"Good. Because I live you, and I don't want to ever lose you." She picked Michelle up and hugged her.

"Hey, what about this banana mush here?"

"You can have it, Kimmy," Stephanie remarked.

"I think Michelle's learned her lesson. I need to check on the turkey, and then I'll get you two something for lunch." D.J. was proud as she and the others went into the house and Kimmy returned home. D.J. always wanted to be the best, and that included doing the best job of helping her sisters that she could. In fact, part of her felt tempted to try and replace her mom, though she knew she couldn't. And, thankfully, her dad had never forced her to try.

D.J. checked the meat thermometer. She turned the oven timer to ten minutes, at which point she would check it again. By then, it would be totally ready, according to her dad's extensive written notes.

She saw Stephanie coming down the back staircase. "Just finished washing your hands?" She nodded. "Where's Michelle?"

"I don't know. Michelle." Stephanie began hollering. "I'll check out back."

"I'll check the living room, maybe she's watching cartoons...freeze," she hollered as she entered the living room.

Michelle had gotten their Uncle Jesse's hand-held lighter for lighting the grill - he'd left it sitting out by mistake. She'd fumbled the safety latch open, and was trying to turn it on. "What's this?" She turned it on, and a flame came out the end just as D.J. got to her. "Whoa."

"Michelle, give me...whaaa-oa," D.J. said, jumping back to avoid the flame as Michelle swiveled around. "Michelle, drop,...NO. Don't drop it." She muttered under her breath that, "Dad only burned a turkey last time I cooked one. Just my luck to have the house burn this time."

Michelle tried to blow on the flame, but it wouldn't go out. "Turn if off," Michelle pleaded.

D.J. finally snatched the lighter from Michelle by getting behind her. She turned it off and put the safety back on. "Michelle," she hollered in fear without thinking, "that was very bad to take that and play with fire, and very bad not to freeze. You go to your room right now!"

D.J. sighed and glanced skyward as Michelle gave her best pouty face. "What am I doing?" she mumbled. Still, she realized that she was in charge, and even if it was harsher than her dad would do to Michelle, something had to be done. She felt like just putting her in a timeout chair wasn't enough - she had to be sent to her room for more than a couple minutes. She thought twice that would be okay.

Stephanie ran into the room, having heard D.J. yell. "What happened," she cried breathlessly.

"Michelle got this and was playing with it, and wouldn't freeze. Michelle, you better go up to your room." Please don't let me have to drag you up there, she said to herself. Looking down, that pouty face was starting to have an impact on her. Be strong, she said to herself. Remember, she could have hurt herself or burned down the house.

D.J. sat the lighter on the coffee table, scooped Michelle up, and carried her upstairs. "Steph, walk behind me so I don't fall with her."

"Help, help," Michelle called out. "Stephy, help me."

Stephanie looked sadly at Michelle. D.J. could tell she was debating whether to tell her not to do it. So, D.J. reminded Michelle, "When you were little and wouldn't freeze, Daddy or Uncle Jesse or Joey or we would put you in your playpen. Now, you go to your room instead. And think about how badly you could have been hurt. You've been told that fire is very dangerous," she declared. She sat Michelle on her bed, and beckoned Stephanie out into the hall.

D.J. put an arm around her, and tried to sound brave. "Don't worry, Steph. Even with us older kids; the worst Dad'll do is ground us and send us to our room to think about it for a little while. Michelle's too young for that, there's too few privileges to revoke. I talked with Becky about it a while a few days ago. But, Dad's just not used to punishing little kids."

She didn't want to add that Becky had said Danny might miss Pam more than he let on. It might make Stephanie feel bad. Just like when she didn't want to complain about Danny not being there for them a couple years ago. She could get protective, and sometimes tried to act like she was growing up really fast and didn't want to feel "stuck" in a little kids' shoes, because there wasn't that mothering bond with Michelle, let alone Stephanie. But, deep down, she always cared about her sisters.

They began to walk downstairs; Michelle followed. "Michelle will be there just enough to think about what she did wrong. I know Dad doesn't like it, but..." They stopped as they got downstairs. "Did you hear something?" She thought she saw the closet door close as she glanced around, but she couldn't be sure.

"I didn't hear anything but you talking," Stephanie replied.

D.J. bent down and whispered. "Say in a loud voice you hear the ice cream man coming."

"I hear the ice cream man coming?" Stephanie asked, startled. As Michelle ran out the door, D.J. corralled her.

"Ouce cream, ouce cream," Michelle said excitedly.

"Ice cream, ice cream. And no, you don't get any." D.J. sighed. She didn't think her mom would have pulled such a trick. But, she didn't know what else to do. "Come here, you."

She plopped Michelle down on one of the steps, and knelt in front of her. "Michelle, I know Daddy doesn't punish you, but you need to learn something. There are some things that are very dangerous. I may have just blurted out that part about sending you to your room, but you need to be sent. You could have burned down the house. You also could have been hurt very badly."

Michelle hung her head as the lecture continued, then wrapped her arms around D.J.'s neck. "I love you, D.J.," Michelle said extra sweetly, kissing her on the nose.

"You know what's coming, you've seen us, huh? Well, listen, you also know that we love you. I love you a lot." And it's hard to do this, she told herself, sniffling. Way harder than I could imagine. "And I won't make you stay in there forever. But you have to stay in there for four minutes."

"I don't wanna go," Michelle whined.

"Well, that's too bad. Because you did something very dangerous. You also didn't freeze when I said," D.J. finished with a sigh. She grabbed Michelle's hand, and marched upstairs with her. When Michelle followed her out her bedroom door again, D.J. said "NO!" quite forcefully, and walked back in, plopping Michelle on her bed. She came out and shut the door behind her, holding it shut.

"Let me out," Michelle begged. "I love you."

"I love you too."

Stephanie walked up beside her, and D.J. placed an arm around her. "Thanks for coming up here, Steph. This is tougher than I hope you ever know." It had been so much easier when she'd just stay in a chair, or on the top step leading up to her room; D.J. had worked it so someday soon, she'd use the room itself as timeout. But, she hadn't thought about how Michelle might try to test the limit. Michelle was testing limits more than more lately, though, being a normal two-year-old. Not only that, but she likely didn't totally understand that D.J. was now using her room as punishment instead, or how long that might last.

A whimpering voice on the other end said "please let me out." Michelle began sniffling on the other side of the door, since she couldn't open it.

D.J. bit her lip to keep from crying. "Did the timer go off yet?" Stephanie nodded.

What was D.J. going to do? She didn't want the turkey to be overcooked. But, Michelle still needed to be there a few minutes longer.

"Can you turn the oven down, Steph? You're a good reader, just knob the middle knob to low so it stays warm. If you're at all unsure come up and ask me."

She sighed as Stephanie went downstairs. She could hear Michelle sniffling on the other side of the door. She could understand why her dad found it so hard to punish her.

Still, another part of her knew it had to be done. And that Danny had to face it someday.

Finally, D.J. glanced at her watch, and decided it was time to enter Michelle's room. Michelle was laying on her bed, weeping. "Michelle?"

Michelle looked up. "Yes, D.J.?"

She picked up the toddler and sat her on her lap as Stephanie entered and stood beside them. "Michelle, do you understand why I punished you?" She nodded slowly. "Why?"

"I played with fire." Why else? "I didn't freeze."

"That's right." D.J. cuddled Michelle in her lap. She wasn't sure what to say now. So, she just did what her dad liked to do. She rambled. "With you not having a mom, I feel like I need to help you. The rules about never playing with fire or matches or lighters are the same for when Daddy's in charge as when anyone is. Understand?" Michelle nodded. "When we say no' about something, we mean no.' Sometimes we can't show you how bad something is."

"Okay." There was silence for a moment before Michelle asked "are you mad at me?"

D.J. smiled. She could almost imagine herself as a mother. How did moms ever handle such tough things, she asked herself. "I'm mad that you did that. And we'll all be mad if you do something like that again. But we'll always love you, even if we are mad. Come on, let's go down and have some lunch. We'll talk more later." The girls went downstairs.

Danny was a little late in arriving. By the time he got home, Jesse had helped Stephanie bake an apple pie to go with D.J.'s turkey.

In all the excitement of preparing the Fourth of July Thanksgiving dinner, D.J. had forgotten to tell their dad what Michelle did till they were about to eat. She asked Stephanie to help carry the food out to the table.

Stephanie shook her head. "Wait a minute. I still think you need to carry the pie."

"I think we can save that for desert, anyway," Danny said, laughing as the others went outside. D.J. and Michelle stayed behind in the kitchen. "Now, what was it you wanted to tell me?"

"Well, Dad...we went beyond sitting her in a chair. I sent Michelle to her room. For four minutes."

Michelle hung her head as she said, "I'm sorry, Daddy."

Danny picked Michelle up and hugged her. D.J. told him what Michelle had done. "The nice part is, Dad, she's been really good again since that happened."

"That's good to know. I hope you understand what you did wrong, Michelle. We're going to have to have some talks about this to make sure. You go out and join the rest of the picnic." Danny smiled contentedly as she ran out and stayed far away from the barbeque.

"She was the same with her nap today, Dad, went right up and stayed there. And again with not wandering when we were setting things up and all of us were busy. She remembered we'd be upset if she didn't listen." D.J. swallowed hard. "It was still hard, though, seeing her like that. But, she suddenly didn't want to listen."

Danny placed a hand on D.J.'s shoulder. What D.J. did was just the way Pam did it. It was hard for him not to get misty-eyed, thinking about Pam. "It was the first time for a new punishment. Her job is to learn, including about what she can and can't do. You did something very important; you showed her where the limit was. Now, in her mind, that limit's there. I doubt she'll need you to send her to her room again." She would, but not much, and consequences like "no dessert" - which D.J. would also have to enforce - would be more common. The Tanner kids generally listened very well and didn't need really tough punishments. Still, Danny was fortunate D.J. was doing this, and he knew it.

"Now," he continued, "you see why I don't like to punish her?" He looked wistful for a moment. "I guess what you did how Mom would have done it."

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure, Dad."

After mulling it over for a second, Danny said, "Look, come here." They sat at the kitchen table, so as to be out of earshot of Stephanie and Michelle. On the one hand, Danny didn't want to be putting all the pressure on his oldest daughter. But, he felt like he had to, as long as D.J. could handle it. Getting through something like this without Pam was very hard for him. And, it might be, even if Michelle was worse, though thankfully she was very good and seemed ready to stay that way. But, still, he felt he had to say this, after talks he and Pam had had.

"Deej, I kind of just let you do this before, and...Well, I just didn't want to think about the fact you're the disciplinarian. Or, that anyone has to be, really. I mean, it was just so much better when she was a baby, when Mom was here. But, I guess I have to admit that's what you're doing, and what you will be doing. For a while, at least. Anyway, I have two rules about those who watch you three. Number one, no hitting. I'm sure you wouldn't do that."

"Trust me, Dad, this was hard enough. I couldn't hurt anyone's tush." She considered that even if she gave a light fwap, she might be crying for a while herself. And, she couldn't imagine ever doing even that much.

"Good. I've never considered it with any of you, and I can't imagine I'll have to; Mom never did, either. The Tanner hearts are tender enough, nobody would ever have to go through the tush to get to one. If it got to that point, though, I'd want to make sure it was gentle, because just the word would hurt the feelings." D.J. nodded. "And, actually, I hate to say it, Deej, but even if it would get to that point, I'd have to let you do it, since now I know you'd be gentle. It's something I told Mom long ago, when we talked about what it would be like to have a real rebel, someone worse than your Uncle Jesse was."

"Let's just figure it won't get to that point." D.J. had sensed a long ramble coming on, and wanted to stop her dad right there. She couldn't stand to think about the possibility, anyway.

"Right; good thinking. Now, Dad's handbook page 82 says that's the kind of thing only for parents and those who watch their children to know. Anyway, number two, I have a duty as a parent to accept others' rules that aren't overly harsh or unfair on you. For instance, it's entirely possible that this winter, Michelle will be ready for preschool. They may be using timeout for things I don't. And, even things you don't."

D.J. nodded quite slowly. "Dad, why are you telling me this?"

"Of course, when you have trouble, you need to ask for help. But you've shown me you can take charge, and keep things running smoothly. I have a lot more confidence now that you could handle babysitting Michelle a lot more often."

D.J. jumped and hugged her dad, who grinned and hugged back. "I won't ever let you down, Dad."

"Deej, that's great. But if you do, remember; I'll always forgive you. And I'll always love you. If you send Michelle to her room when you're in charge, that's okay. Or even when I'm in charge if she does something wrong." She began to leave, but Danny beckoned her back. "However, we need to sit down with her and explain when you can. Because Michelle needs to see I'm still the boss; you just send her to her room because I'm letting you. She needs to listen to you when you do; till I'm ready," he said, finishing very lowly. He wasn't sure when he would be.

"Sure, Dad."

"We won't call what you do punishment; that's my job. Just a few minutes in her room with the door shut is fine, though. I know what you're doing. You want to be like Mom. But, remember, you don't have to be totally like her. Your main job is to be the best D.J. Tanner you can be. And you don't have to be a mom yet. And hopefully you won't until you're about eighty."

"Gotcha," D.J. remarked. Come on, there's a turkey waiting out there for you to carve."

As they went outside, Michelle proudly held up a large part of the wishbone. "Look!"

"She cheated. She tickled me while we were doing the wishbone," Stephanie reported.

"Hey, look at what I cooked," D.J. pointed out. "Dad says sometimes I try too hard at things." She smiled at Michelle as they were about to say grace, as if it were Thanksgiving. "But I'm sure gonna keep trying with you. Because I want you to be like Stephanie, the best little sister anyone could want."

Afterward: Late September, 1990

D.J. and Stephanie had been doing homework in their rooms. Now, they peeked out, to see their dad actually putting Michelle - dressed in sweats over her bathing suit - in her room for timeout. It was just like D.J. had been doing for over a year. It was very hard for both, for Danny because he'd waited so long, for Michelle because she was used to always getting away with things if he caught her, and not being punished, unlike when her sisters caught her. She'd seemed to sense something like this would happen, though, with the butterfly kisses she'd been giving Danny as he carried her upstairs.

With a mix of sadness and relief that Danny was finally doing his job, the girls walked up to him in the hallway.

"Deej, I'm glad you're here," Danny said, relieved. It was still hard for him - he still wished Pam was there to help. And, that made him think about how sad Michelle was, and sadness reminded him of Pam, which made him think of the loss, since Michelle had that great smile and laugh of Pam's. It was a vicious cycle he knew would come the first time he punished Michelle, and he just had to fight it.

"Look, Deej, would you watch the door...awww, look at those cute fingers sticking out from under the door."

"Michelle, you know to go when I send you," D.J. said simply but firmly. "It's Daddy's turn now to punish you when you're naughty. You obey him like you have me." The fingers left.

After a moment, his heart melting thinking about the whimpering girl behind the door, Danny said, "Thanks, Deej, for being here for me." He knew she'd done it herself, and struggled a little the first time. But, she wasn't doing it while feeling alone like he was. At least with D.J. standing there to help, it lessened the blow of not having the woman he'd hoped to spend fifty, maybe seventy years with. It was so hard for him, seeing Michelle as a big girl, and not as the baby she was when Pam was alive. Things would be so much easier with Pam - they always had been.

"It wasn't going to get any easier," Stephanie stated truthfully. Indeed, even their Uncle Jesse had said Michelle was out of control. While he normally could talk to Michelle in a motherly way, sweetly yet firmly, about her behavior, and she'd listen, she hadn't the last coupe times he'd tried. Now, however, he would be able to again. At least, for a couple years, till she realized Jesse would never enforce rules either, just play around and tickle her.

"I know. Maybe it would have been easier doing it right away, instead of waiting this long. The longer I waited, I thought it would be easier, but...well, I'm glad you made me do it now. I know, it's been harder with school starting up again, and you want to do a lot with the school paper. And, as you say, it is my turn, huh? Look, wait there while I put on some dry shoes and socks." He'd stepped into the wading pool which Michelle had brought into the house and filled; she was in timeout for disobeying Danny after he'd said it was too cold, and for bringing it into the house.

The older sisters waited, and told Jesse what had happened as he came upstairs.

"Oh great, thanks, I'll go tell Joey. Right now I hafta write a check to Kimmy, of all people. You know that National Liver Council ad we had to do? Well, we tricked Kimmy into taking a bite for the ad on camera, thinking she'd hate it, and she didn't. We didn't need to put a lid on the plate again and do a second take, but she wouldn't have minded if we did." He shook his head and went into his room to get the company checkbook. "Figures she'd like something that disgusting," he said, the look on his face showing just how bad he thought liver was.

Once Danny came back, D.J. reported, "I told Uncle Jesse, he's telling Joey. We didn't hear a peep from her."

"She knows we mean business."

"Well, thanks, Steph, I..." Danny opened the door to see Michelle on her bed, head in hands, looking very sad. "Oh, honey, I'm sorry I, I can do this myself. Although, I'm glad you're here, Deej."

"Hey, no problem. It's a big load off my mind."

Danny understood. He realized, however, that Michelle needed D.J. here, too. D.J. was still the one who had always done it, and there needed to be something of a smooth transition. It seemed, however, like there would be one now. And, D.J. would be needed less and less to help Danny.

He asked if Michelle understood why he'd punished her, and she did. "No swimming in the kitchen."

"Well..." The girls agreed as Danny let Michelle out of her punishment. Before letting her go downstairs, he added, "Yes. That's part of it." All went downstairs. Once they were in the kitchen, as Kimmy sat at the table, and Jesse and Joey returned from emptying the pool outside, Danny continued. "You didn't listen to what I told you about not swimming today. And, I know why; you hadn't had to before, unless D.J. was there to make you if you decided not to listen. But, the truth is, Michelle, D.J. reacted when things got bad because she knew I wasn't ready to see you as my big girl. She did things just the way I should have done them. Only, now it'll be me setting limits, and punishing you by putting you in your room, or taking away some privilege if I have to."

"You got it, Dude," Michelle said sadly, holding up a thumb.

Danny wasn't sure if he wanted to correct this or not - it wasn't very polite for someone who had just been punished to say. But, he never corrected her "bad attitude." Jesse and Joey also looked unsure of how to respond.

"Do you want to get her to respond nicely?"

"Yeah, yeah, thanks, Deej." Jesse broke out of his momentary confusion, and said, "See, it's like this Michelle, this is how you should talk." He turned to Joey and smiled sweetly, knowing Michelle wouldn't know the real meaning of the big words. "Joseph, there's an absolutely revolting piece of liver that I just know you, my dear friend, will find positively disgusting. Won't you please eat it?"

Joey talked much more sweetly, shaking his head with a huge fake grin while patting Jesse on the shoulder. "Oh, no, thank you, Jesse. I appreciate the offer of being able to barely digest that repulsive looking meat that reminds me of old shoe leather. I insist that you, my good friend, sample that atrocious food."

Jesse got an even bigger phony grin and returned the pat on the shoulder. "Oh, thank you, Joseph, but I could never take away my dear partner's chance to consume that vile and disgusting liver. It's just sitting out there waiting for you."

"What? You left a piece of meat out to rot in my...!" Danny caught himself, remembering who he was doing this for. He went from the shocked, eyes bulging look to a silly grin and an extra sweet voice. "I mean, gentlemen, while you debate who will eat the rest of that dreadful meal, I must insist that you please put it in the refrigerator so it won't spoil and look worse than it already does."

"Are they nuts?" Michelle could tell they were faking it.

"Michelle," D.J. explained, "what they're trying to do is to get you to stop saying 'you got it, Dude' when they correct you, just like I correct you when you say it. You should say 'Yes, Daddy.'"

"Oh. Yes, Daddy," she uttered politely.

All three men breathed a huge sigh of relief. "Oh, thank goodness," Jesse spouted. "I don't think we could have held on much longer talking about that liver."

"So, how'd you get suckered into that one, anyway?" Kimmy asked.

"Well, we heard they needed us to do an ad, and I jumped at it, thinking it was an organization that fought liver disease or something," Joey enlightened her. "I figured it had to do with the body part."

"That's what it looks like," Jesse said.

Stephanie couldn't resist a chance to tease Kimmy. "Of course, you probably don't even know there is a body part called that."

"Hey, watch it, squirt, I happen to know the liver is a very important part of the body." Not being content to sound intelligent, Kimmy continued. "It's what makes you live, that's why they call it that."

Kimmy turned her attention to D.J. next. "So, Michelle really wasn't allowed to have a pool party in the kitchen? I guess that makes sense. You people don't do things like roller blade in the house like my family does. Sorry I helped get you in trouble for that," she told Michelle.

"What do you mean?" Jesse wanted to know.

"Well, I came looking for D.J., and when I came in the back door, Squirt Junior here was dragging the hose in to fill her pool. I figured she might make a mess, so I asked if she was allowed to do that in here. She said she was, so I filled the pool for her, and then checked the basement. That's when you two saw me and got me to do that ad," she said to Jesse and Joey.

"You listened to her?!" Danny asked incredulously.

"Kimmy," D.J. said, trying to sound diplomatic as they prepared to leave the kitchen, "the next time a three-year-old tells you they're allowed to have a pool party in the kitchen, don't believe them."

With her familiar shrug, Kimmy spoke as they left. "Whatever you say, Deej. You've always had good advice for when I was babysitting. Like what you told me this summer after you had to come get me untied..."

For a moment, the men, Stephanie, and Michelle stared at the door Kimmy and D.J. had gone through. Jesse finally said, "I don't really want to know what those kids did, do you?" Everyone else shook their heads.

"I'm just glad our little princess will never be like that," Danny said as he picked her up.

The rest of the day passed rather uneventfully, except for Michelle testing the limits a few times. She didn't outright disobey Danny yet, though, as she was a little timid about what would happen now that he was punishing her.

However, she was still a little out of control, and she was especially anxious to see if the limit extended to bedtime. She had gotten totally out of having a bedtime the previous night. So, once she'd gotten her bath, donned her purple nightie, and been put to bed, she got up again.

After the men tried for a while to get her to stay in bed, Danny knew he had to go to D.J. for help. He wanted to show Michelle he was in charge - indeed, he'd wanted to since she was two, and he was explaining to her - with D.J.'s help - that he was simply letting D.J. punish her. He just hadn't been ready to do all that the boss had to do, so had turned to the most Pam-like replacement there was for that part of the mission, just as he'd trusted Jesse and Joey to help with everything else.

If she saw him going to D.J. now, though, she might start to wonder if D.J. was the real boss. And, while things hadn't been that hard for D.J., he knew they still could be if she had to back him up every time like she had earlier today. Doing it sometimes was important - and would be for a few months after this, until she started using dares for her chores and privileges as a sort of backup for Danny, and until he got totally used to punishing Michelle himself.

But, for now, he wanted to look totally natural. So, after taking her back to bed once, he stopped talking to her as Michelle sat on the couch watching TV. "Guys, let's take a break, I'm going to go dust D.J.'s room."

"What?!" Jesse and Joey followed him out to the kitchen, where he grabbed a dust rag. "How can you think about cleaning at a time like this? I mean, I know you always think about cleaning, but isn't there something more important right now?" Jesse asked for both of them.

"Look guys, it's not the fact I'm cleaning, it's where I'm cleaning," Danny said in a low voice, so Michelle couldn't overhear if she walked in. She wouldn't have anyway, though, she was sitting down, happily watching the Discovery Channel well past her bedtime.

Jesse and Joey slowly nodded their understanding as Danny walked up the back staircase.

He knocked - when D.J. said to come in, as both older girls had their pajamas on, Danny stepped inside with the dust rag, then looked behind him. "Good, the coast is clear," he said before closing the door behind him. "I figured I'd look natural if I came in with a dust rag."

"That part I get," Stephanie said while reading in bed. D.J. was checking her homework at their table. "But, why?"

"Well, it's Michelle. She got up and won't go back to bed."

"And, you need my help? I thought we went over this. You were going to be the boss now," D.J. said.

"I know, Deej, but this is so tough and new for me yet. What have you done when she wouldn't go?"

D.J. hated to break it to him, but, "Truthfully, Dad, I never had this problem. I might not have bonded with her as much as Uncle Jesse has, but she does know I'm a loving enforcer of the rules. So, she always went and stayed when I said."

"Oh boy," Danny said, sitting tiredly in one of the chairs the girls used. "Look, could you at least tell me what you would have done, if you'd had to do it, so I can do it, and make Michelle think I'm doing it because it's what you did and what I should have been doing; or rather, what you would have done that I should have done if you'd had to do it?"

"Well, one thing's for sure Dad. You don't need to worry about Michelle following that. I'm having a hard time," D.J. said with a smile. She thought for a moment, and finally hit upon an idea. "You know, it is like something I experienced a while back. She'd done something naughty in her room, I forget what. But, I couldn't send her to her room; she was already there. So, I made her sit in the corner instead.

"If I were you, I'd sell it; that usually works very well with her. I'd give her a choice. She can lay in a warm, cozy bed, and close her eyes, and think happy thoughts and dream fun dreams. Or, she can sit in a cold, boring corner, and just look straight ahead, and have to think about the fact she was naughty and was being punished, and it will be no fun at all."

D.J. looked strangely at Danny; he'd grabbed a sheet of her paper and a pencil. "Dad, what are you doing?"

"Getting all that down; it sounded really good."

"Dad, it has to come from the heart. Go down there, give her that choice, and if she won't listen, well... I'll be there for you," she said, smiling sadly as she touched his shoulder. She'd hoped her dad would start punishing and that would be it. Now, she worried that it was always going to be a little hard for him.

Danny thanked her and left the room, the gesture reminding him of Pam. Indeed, it reminded him that Michelle wasn't the only one in whom he saw Pam. There was a little of Pam in each of the girls. And, thankfully, D.J. had enough of Pam in her to see him through tough times such as this. Indeed, he decided that Michelle had stalled enough, and he would sit her in the corner as punishment now - though he'd actually put her against a bookcase when he got up there with her. He was still a little lax yet. It would be something of a struggle, but he would get used to it eventually. And, when he was lax later, D.J. would be there to keep Michelle's behavior from getting way out of control.

Stephanie got out of bed before turning out her light, and walked over to D.J.'s bed. Both sat on it, and Stephanie complimented her. "That was a great idea, letting Dad see that pool there so he'd start punishing her.. You really are a genius."

"I don't know, Steph. I really think I almost blew it. If Dad doesn't step in the pool, his shoe isn't wet, and then if Michelle doesn't boast that he let her get away with everything, she sees me lose that confrontation and things might have been even worse. Whereas, I could have found some way to just take him off to the side and talk to him. I mean, he knew I had more pressures with school now, and all that stuff. But, if he refuses here, I might have really had to be just like Mom."

"Whoa." Stephanie's eyes grew wide. "You mean you would have had to quit school so you could stay home with her?"

D.J. chuckled. "Okay, not quite like Mom. She had almost graduated high school before she got married and then had me, anyway; I can't imagine dropping out in eighth grade. But, you know, just making sure I was there to watch her like a hawk when I wasn't in school."

"It didn't matter, though. Michelle was going to brag about that, anyway. That's just the way she is."

"You're probably right, Steph. Thanks. And, I guess Dad's going to be able to get through this well enough. It's been a few minutes, so either she went back to bed, or at least is staying in timeout. I just wonder if it's always going to be a little hard for Dad."

"Yeah, at least she's not like those kids Kimmy had. Did they really tie her up?"

"They did, Steph; Michelle's friend Aaron and his one cousin, who's a few years older, were really bad that day. I didn't tell anyone anything more than that so I wouldn't embarrass Kimmy. But, these cowboy wannabes...well, let's just say I told her not to believe a really wild kid if he tells her to sit real still and not look behind her, and he has a rope with him. They just tied her to a chair, but she was near a phone and it was loose enough she could get one arm kind of out enough to call."

"Man, I almost feel sorry for her. Notice I say almost," she hastened to add.

"Well, let's just say she falls for things she shouldn't. Things you wouldn't."

"I'll bet you really had a cow at those kids."

D.J. nodded slowly. "I did. I hate to say it. But, they'd done enough other bad stuff, and had been so naughty since tying her up, I actually mentioned the word 'spanking,'" she said lowly, confiding in Stephanie. "It's never been considered by anyone in our family. But, while I would be gentle, especially with Michelle, there were times lately I worried it might come to that in a few months if things didn't get better. But, as long as Dad's consistent now I'm sure I'll never have to think about it." And, while Danny's inconsistency would cause her to mention the possibility a couple times over the next few years, she would never have to do it. And, even if she had, she always knew she could just hurt Michelle's feelings.

Stephanie's eyes grew wide, as she wasn't that certain of what D.J. was thinking. "You wouldn't really hurt her, would you?" she asked with a frown.

"Of course not, Steph," she said, putting an arm around her. "I probably feel the exact same way you do about that; neither of us could ever hurt Michelle's body. I'm just talking about light fwaps - pretty much psychological warfare. You know how when you were younger, you'd get so nervous before getting a shot, even though it hardly hurt." Stephanie nodded her understanding. "Only my slaps wouldn't even feel that bad. But, she'd she know she was being punished."

"I don't even want to think about you doing that."

"Me neither. And, I shouldn't have to. Dad should be consistent now; it seems like he has things under control. But, even if he'd start getting really lax again, there are so many options before I'd even threaten that. She raked those leaves today when we made her, before Dad told her not to; and he was right, it was our punishment. But, we've got other things we can make her do. I can trick her out of any privilege, too. I could start using the corner instead of her room for timeout, and even hold her down if I had to. She's sensitive to my lectures, after all, since I don't yell a lot. And, if all else fails, she's a little girl, and pretty timid. I could always scare her into listening if I had to; that even worked talking about it with those kids who tied up Kimmy." And, D.J. was right. Then, after three straight weeks as boss over Michelle at camp, Michelle was finally in the habit of obeying the more lenient Danny for good.

"True. I guess sneakiness is part of raising kids sometimes, huh? I guess that means you're always going to be able to handle Michelle if Dad can't."

D.J. agreed as she lovingly squeezed her again. "You're right. We've been through the worst, hopefully. And, even if there's tougher times later, I'll never have to actually hurt her. In fact, I'll probably never even have to worry about it. Becky says sometimes those worries come because I'm a teen and I haven't been through a lot of things, so I wonder if it'll get worse. But, even if Dad would struggle later, we've done great with Michelle so far. She really is good overall."

Stephanie nodded in agreement. But, the idea still nagged at her. She always needed to know what was going on, it seemed. She was certain that D.J. wouldn't hurt Michelle now. But, she also knew that she might get nervous if Michelle ever got threatened by D.J.. So, she said, "If it ever happens...tell her she can come and cuddle with me afterward."

"Sure, Steph. I remember what you said about the different tears you can cry when Uncle Jesse thought I'd been drinking; you said you could tell mine were 'I didn't do it' tears, not 'I'm in big trouble' ones. You want to make sure Michelle's only crying 'I'm a bad girl' tears and not 'it hurts' tears, huh?" Stephanie nodded. "Well, I promise, it would scare her and be sad for her, but I'll do my best to make sure it only hurts her feelings."

"Thanks, Deej."

Stephanie went back to bed and turned out her light. She was confident now, too. She knew D.J. wouldn't hide anything from her. But, Stephanie would still be much happier after the major times of testing came and went, and D.J. hadn't had to do it. She was annoyed by Michelle sometimes, but deep down really cared for her and could never stand to see her hurt. In her own way, she could be just as protective as Danny.

D.J. picked up her homework from the table and put it in her backpack, then sat back on her bed as Danny entered again. "Came back for your dust rag, huh?"

"Right." He reported to D.J. that her solution had worked. "I had to sit her in the corner, but when I went back in, she was still there, and she'd learned her lesson. Went to bed right away." He smiled wistfully. "Deej, I can't thank you enough. I guess I might still turn to you a little bit from time to time," Danny related. "But, she knows now I mean business, too. She said the lesson was 'no swimming in the kitchen' - I think she figured her doing that was what started me punishing her at all. But, I explained the real lesson was that she needed to listen to us and, well, you're probably tired, and tomorrow is a school day. Just suffice it to say she knew she needed to go to bed, and she's stayed. And, well, here I go talking on and on again. I know I used to do it a lot even before, but maybe it's just one more sign how much I still miss Mom."

"We all do, Dad." Stephanie added, "But, you can do a good job with Michelle, even without her."

"Thanks. I really appreciate it. When Mom died I didn't know how I would make it. With Uncle Jesse's and Joey's help, and even yours, we're making it. But, if you ever see me slacking off with her again, Deej, feel free to step in."

"Don't worry, Dad. I have enough tricks up my sleeve, chores she can do, ways to get privileges away from her, things like that. I remember Mom hosting Steph's toddler playgroup on a summer day when I was eight. I asked how she ever did it, and she told me, 'By the time you get older, D.J., you'll know all the tricks they can pull. And they'll all fall for something.'"

"You're right. Mom was always so good at keeping things running smoothly, maybe that's part of what I miss, too." Indeed, even after getting her under control now, there would be times, especially when she dove into Jesse and Becky's wedding cake samples and gobbled them up, when he'd just watch for a moment, amused but also thinking that this kind of thing wouldn't happen if Pam were there. But, as he noted to D.J., "I know with your help, we can make it through, anyway."

"We sure can, Dad." They embraced, and Danny left.