My Household: A Despotic Regime

How to handle a familial rebellion.


Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

The demonstrations began peacefully enough.

My youthful subjects were restless. They started a Facebook group. They cried for higher allowances and a livable wage. They protested that TV and videogame time were insufficient and even inhumane. Some declared the curfew was a manifestation of crass parentalism.

In essence, they demanded that the Rules of the Household be revised, if not rewritten completely.

I met with my father-in-law, my new Chief of Security — a quiet man, meticulously clean and dark-suited regardless of weather or hour. As usual, I found him on our back porch, legs crossed and sipping coffee, smoking languidly amid the scattered Power Rangers and an effigy of Dora the renowned explorer.

In the cool breeze, he advised me to feign progress, to rewrite the founding document in order to appease demonstrators, but to use complicated language, extended metaphors, and incomprehensible charts and figures. The new Coalition for the Advancement of Bedtimes and Young Human’s Rights would divide the same allowances into a complex pay-schedule, re-administer TV and video-game time into irregular portions, and couch the same curfew in the language of willful participation on the part of my subjects.

In their ignorance, the demonstrators were appeased. My wife looked on with disdain.

The calm was not to last. By mid-afternoon, my eldest male subject had emerged as the opposition leader — an affront to blood and tradition. He stormed into my office, placed himself in front of Rachael Ray, who had been lovingly preparing a southern-style vegetable meatloaf, and threw the new constitution in my face.

The other demonstrators watched in terror, peeking around the doorway. I felt my hands shake, but I managed to control my voice. I ordered him out. In the corner, leaning against the shelf of self-help books, my Chief of Security adjusted his sunglasses and looked at me, waiting. I nodded firmly, giving him full sanction.

That afternoon, the house wifi network went down. As cries of distress erupted from various rooms, I started up from the couch, but felt his hand on my shoulder. He pressed me back into the seat and assured me it was hard, but such was the cost of control. In a word, he was correct. The fall-out was rapid and caustic. The household was perfectly divided on the issue. Some declared a royalist plot, others remained silent. Either way, a message had been sent.

The rest of the evening was placid. The opposition leader did not emerge from his room. There were no signs of unrest throughout a quiet dinner at Applebee’s and a trip to the cinema, a CGI family film, Turtle Recall, that had us all laughing as if nothing were wrong.

But what came to be known as the Great Ice Cream Riots, starting as a small conflagration of revolutionary ideology, had grown to a roaring blaze in the van ride home, illuminating the fact that other instigators had to be dealt with.

My Chief of Security interrogated them separately at a black-site. He said it limited my culpability. He began with the youngest female subject. Within minutes, the confessions poured forth as from a sugar-cone overturned.

Over breakfast, several subjects missing, we poked at our Eggos tentatively. My Chief of Security sat on a stool at the counter, sipping coffee and smoking, flipping through an old Glamour. He informed me that the opposition was made up of two blocks divided by sex. Differences in vision as to the ideal constitution plus vague allusions to cooties kept them fragmented. I thanked him for the intel and watched as my youngest female subject played with a unicorn over her plate, its mane soaked with syrup.

I noticed my wife had not touched her Eggo and I asked if she was discontent. She made no reply. I began to fear a hunger strike. My Chief of Security exhaled a plume of smoke, once again waiting on me. I nodded a final time.

A bell chimed and I woke up to blackness. I grasped at my face and removed the cloth sack from my head. I winced at the light and felt the wooziness of drugs wearing off. An old woman across the aisle glared at me over her Kindle. It was announced that we were beginning our final descent. So my exile began. I fumbled for a paper vomit bag and extricated a pen from between the seats. I wrote fervently, passionately, drafting a new and fair ruling document. It would include generous allowances, liberal TV and video-game time, and the most accommodating curfews. I decided to grow a mustache. I would text the opposition leader. We would organize. I had faith. The revolution would prevail.

Zane Shetler lives in Durham, North Carolina. His last expedition through suburbia went poorly. There might be more at his website?