Sibling Wars: Ketchup Bomb

ketchup-29755_1280So here’s a parenting dilemma: how should you react when your oldest child plays an outrageously mean – but quite hilarious – prank on their younger sibling?

It all started on a normal school day morning. While Husband was downstairs and I was in the shower, 12YO and 6YO started the day with one of their regular pre-breakfast pitched battles. The routine goes something like this:

Child A sticks their head around Child B’s bedroom door, and says something snarky or makes an unpleasantly high-pitched noise designed to irritate the barely-awake Child B.

Child B screams at Child A to shut the door.

Child A refuses to shut door, causing Child B to scream at top of lungs.

Child B drags itself out of bed, usually trailing a duvet behind (which will later be abandoned on kitchen floor for me to trip over), and attempts to beat the cr*p out of Child A.

Child A retaliates. Tears ensue.

The two performers in this regular pantomime are both versatile, and can switch between roles at ease. On this particular morning, 12YO played the part of Child A. 6YO was very comfortable as Child B, as she is particularly gifted at beating the cr*p out of people – so much so, in fact, that Child A stormed off to school harbouring a bleeding finger. She was also, as we found out later, harbouring a grudge.

I returned home that night to find Husband putting away the mop and bucket, and 6YO picking dried tomato ketchup out of her hair. Apparently 6YO had been at the dinner table alone (it being one of those days when we were all arriving home and wanting food at different times). Husband had given her a delicious and nutritious home cooked meal plate of fish fingers and chips and then gone to sort out some laundry, when he’d been summoned back by a plaintive wail of “Daddy, something happened!” It seems that the bottle of tomato sauce had exploded quite dramatically while she was dousing her dinner in it. Both she and the wall had been covered.

Now, 6YO loves her tomato ketchup and has it on just about every meal (don’t judge me), so this had obviously been quite traumatic and caused lots of tears. We chalked it up to the fridge being slightly too cold so the bottle might have been a bit frozen, or perhaps she’d just shaken it too vigorously… but no. The truth which was gleefully confessed later is that 12YO (who is both a science geek and a lover of prank videos on YouTube) had secretly crept into the kitchen and laced the bottle of tomato ketchup with some bicarbonate of soda.  You can google ‘ketchup bomb prank’ if you want to see the effects. I won’t be sharing the photo which Husband took of the aftermath because it does look like a murder scene.

So, parents reading this, here is my question: how would you respond to this confession? If the bottle had burst or the cap flown off, it could have caused injury. As it was, it caused a hideous mess, a lot of clearing up, and gave 6YO a horrible fright. It was also, however, one of those times when you know you should be lecturing your child, but you are mostly trying not to laugh. I somehow feel I should be taking a firmer stand against this kind of reckless pranking. But I’m also impressed with her ingenuity in researching how to make a ketchup bottle explode, and – dare I say it – I’m delighted that the ketchup-guzzling 6YO has refused all offers of the red stuff ever since!

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