Decorating our Christmas tree is one of my favorite holiday traditions. We typically put it up over the Thanksgiving weekend and I spend a couple of days stringing lights and agreeing, under duress, to let the kids hang the ornaments. I love a lit Christmas tree, could stare at one for hours and would consider keeping it up all year long if I thought Bob would agree to that plan.

The kids become absolutely giddy as well. The TREE signals the start of the holiday season and the countdown to the big day. Since we traveled over Thanksgiving this year, we got a bit of a late start on the festivities. It was already the first week of December when I decided the kids and I would put the tree up as a fun after school activity. This notion was probably me romanticizing what it’s like to decorate a Christmas tree with three young kids during the most exhausting part of the day but whatever, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Also, I figured I could use the excitement of the tree to bribe them to clean their rooms. Parenting is basically 50 percent bribery, right? The deal was, the kids had to pick up the shrapnel in their bedrooms and then we’d get the tree from the basement.

Now, when my kids “clean” their rooms, they essentially pick up all of the visible stuff in the middle of the room and put it back in approximately the right location. You can see a lot of carpet with this method so things appear tidy. However, there’s always this ring around the outer wall of the space filled with Lego pieces, markers, old scout pins, random socks and other flotsam that is somehow invisible to them and gets left behind. I usually help them clean by standing in the middle of the room and rotating around, like an angry sprinkler head, helpfully pointing out all of the things they’ve missed. On this particular weekday, I asked Charlie to clean out under the dresser since it sits a bit off of the floor and I could see a lot of Lego pieces had migrated there. When he crawled under there to do a sweep for storm trooper helmets and mini light sabers, he returned instead with an alarming number of candy wrappers. A lot of candy wrappers. Like, a Halloween bucket full of candy wrappers.

Photo only represents a small portion of the candy wrappers actually found.

Photo only represents a small portion of the candy wrappers actually found.

This, confused me. Greatly. Mostly, because Halloween was a full six weeks past and this had definitely been Halloween candy. Also, we don’t allow the kids to take food to their bedrooms. Certainly not chocolate. Why were there so many wrappers in their room? Why were they all stuffed down behind the dresser? Whose wrappers were they? What was even happening? Why had no one saved me a Butterfinger?

I immediately posed all of these questions to the boys and they vigorously denied any knowledge of the candy consumption. I asked over and over again for information on the wrappers. Mostly, because I was still super confused as to what was going on but also because someone was absolutely not telling the truth. Somehow, at some point, someone had consumed a large amount of snack size chocolate bars in secret. Typically, that’s me. Hiding from the kids. In my closet. But not this time. Millie eventually joined the inquisition and was helpful in placing all blame directly on “the boys.” Which was not helpful but most likely accurate.

Finally, when no one would fess up, I had no choice but to pull the Uncle Buck move of collecting the torn wrappers and telling the kids I would have to send them out to “the lab” for forensic testing. The lab would be able to tell me whose fingerprints were on the wrappers and I could nab the correct suspect. Surprisingly, this tactic did not coerce a confession. Sure, a couple of them looked nervous and shifty but no one was willing to fess up.

Eventually, I threw the wrappers in the garbage and went to sort through some Christmas decorations in the basement figuring that Bob could harken up his Marine voice that evening and hash out the culprit.

After a few minutes, the kids wandered downstairs, too, and Henry began pinging me about when we were going to put together the tree. I patiently explained that the tree wasn’t going up until someone explained the candy wrappers. He again denounced responsibility and went to play with something else in the basement. When Charlie appeared to ask the same Christmas tree question, I may have, allegedly, declared loudly that Christmas was canceled until I got some candy wrapper answers. The idea of no tree, no presents, no celebration, the idea that Christmas was on hold indefinitely until a confession was proffered was simply too much for Henry to bear. He cracked. He fessed up. He admitted culpability. It was exactly like every interrogation room scene ever in Law and Order. I had my man. Er, boy.

“It was me, alright! It was me! Those are my candy wrappers!”

“Wow. Well, thanks for telling the truth, Henry. But why in the world did you have candy in your room? Why were you sneaking it?”

“Because I wanted it! And, you always throw our candy away right after Halloween and that’s not fair.”

“Well, that’s true, Henry. I do throw away the candy.”

“Well you shouldn’t do that. It’s my candy. Besides, Dad told me I should keep a stash.”

“I’m not mad about the candy, Hen- wait what? Dad WHAT?”

“He told me I should keep a stash. So you couldn’t find it to throw it away.”

On Law and Order, this would be known as a PLOT TWIST.

Fifteen minutes later, I had the whole story. Sometime over Halloween weekend, Henry was lamenting to his father the early demise of his candy haul at my hand. His father, making a dubious judgement call, told him he should keep a stash of candy hidden. Henry thought this was a great idea and proceeded forthwith to stash individual candy bars in each of the slats that comprise the top bunk mattress supports right above his head on his bed. That’s… a lot of slats. He apparently would then remove one or two or three little candy bars at a time, eat the candy and discard the wrapper by stuffing it behind the dresser where it eventually fell and was discovered on that fateful Tuesday afternoon in December. It was quite an endeavor.

My first reaction was pride because it was a pretty well-executed plan.

My second reaction was envy because I kind of want my own secret candy stash.

My third reaction was a profound realization that I really need to change the sheets on their bunk beds more often.

My fourth reaction was just that Bob was a goner.

I did my best to assuage Henry’s guilt over having lied since he was pretty upset with himself already. I let him know that we would discuss everything further when his dad returned home from work. Then, I asked him if he had anything left in his candy bar stash. He immediately perked up, disappeared to his room for a minute and returned with a couple of Almond Joys and a single Hershey’s Kiss. It was apparent I had discovered his stash a few days too late since all the good stuff was gone.

When Bob arrived home, there was some general finger-pointing and assignment of blame between father and son. I was sure to shoot some disapproving looks in Bob’s general direction but, we had already moved past the deceit and were busy working on the Christmas tree.

When the kids were finally asleep that night, all contraband candy removed from the boys’ bedroom, I leaned over to Bob and asked, “In five years, when Henry is sneaking out of the house, you’re not gonna, like, hold the window open for him, are you?”

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