House Rules & Chaos

Season 11, Episode 10, Part 1: Shoes

In the Family Justice System there are two separate yet equally frustrating principles; the House Rules established by parents, and the Chaos of childhood attempting to get around them. These are their stories…


7:30pm Thursday April 26- Back room of the Ducharme house; Escondido, Ca.

Paul Ducharme trips over a pair of Sunday Shoes. It is the same pair of Sunday Shoes that have been by the back door all week. He kicks them towards the pile by the door. They catch some air and make contact with a pair of tap shoes near the top. Several toddler shoes dislodge and roll into the doorway. He curses louder than intended. “Son of a bitch! How are there so many shoes? All the damn time!?” He is exasperated and rhetorical.

His youngest daughter clears her throat and smiles at him from across the homework table. It is always this child that is present when he says something he should not. The flash of too big eye teeth and the dimple on her right cheek always disarm him. He becomes momentarily nostalgic for little girl laughter. Her innocent dimples weaponize and her eyes sparkle with nefarious intent. She winks at him conspiratorially and makes a smartass comment.

“Well, we are required to wear two shoes, a pair, and there are 5 of us. So, 10 shoes at the door seems perfectly reasonable.” Her tone is calm, irritatingly reasonable, and dripping with sarcasm.

“You know what I mean. These are Sunday Shoes and these are tap shoes and they are both yours. I know, because I’ve tripped over them so often they are scuffed up.” He was in no mood. He warned her with the raised eyebrow of care-to-change-your-bullshit-answer.

“I wore those on Wednesday and I just got back from tap class. Technically my shoes have been by the door only moments longer than yours.” She held up her dance bag. Part defense, part challenge. She was also in no mood.

“Did you wear two pairs of shoes to school today?” Holding up two pairs of the same sneakers. Identical except one had purple laces and the other pink. The pink pair looked several years older, because they were. “If you kept your shoes in the closet, they wouldn’t look like this!” He poked his finger through the hole in the toe of a pink laced shoe. The Mervyn’s card balance suddenly came to him. “I’m not buying you any more shoes if you’re not going to take care of them.”

“You have two daughters,” She yells at the ceiling, “Sara! Dad’s forgotten about you! Get down here, he’s got the Paul-timers!” There is a muffled yelling from above. “You also have a son.” Holding up a pair of tiny toddler shoes. “And a wife.” She held up a pair of pristine tennis shoes, several sizes larger than the pink and purple laced shoes. She was approaching the line. They both knew it.

“Don’t be a smartass.” Shit. Now it would be part of her vocabulary. Renis would not be happy.

“Better than being a dumbass.” There it was, complete with eye teeth, dimple, and nefarious eyes. She toed the line then leapt right across. She gives her father the raised eyebrow of you-said-it-first as she calmly observes him sort the children’s shoes into a small hill.

“I asked you to take these upstairs yesterday.” He held out the Sunday shoes worn on Wednesday. “Take these upstairs. NOW.” He points at the pile of shoes. His tone the low and serious warning of exhausted father-on-the-edge.

“They’re not all mine! Mom said…” She recklessly attempted a tap dance at the line but he was already beyond it.

“They are mostly yours. Put your shoes away or I will take them away.” The low growl of a dog before a full bark. They made aggressive eye contact across the hill of shoes. Hackles raised.

“You’re going to take away my shoes? Because they happen to be the ones you trip over most?” Her growl almost matched his. She was his pup and that was the root of their conflict.

“You clearly don’t need them all. If there are shoes here after dinner, you will be grounded this weekend and the shoes will be thrown out. Do you understand me?” He wrestled with his rapidly disintegrating patience. A pleading in his voice. Please, just do as I ask.

“They’re not MINE!” His youngest daughter indignantly takes a census of the pile of shoes. “Looks like Ned wins for most shoes in the doorway! I think he’s out front with mom. Probably wearing yet another pair of shoes. Kids these days, am I right?” She puts two pairs of shoes into her bag leaving the others where he’d piled them. A pleading in her voice. Please, just hear me.

“I’m getting real tired of your smart mouthing, young lady. I’m asking you to take all the children’s shoes upstairs and put them in the closet or you’re grounded!” Concise, final-warning bark. Loud and clear.

“I’m getting tired of your double standards, old man. Go ahead and ground me this weekend. You’re clearly not interested in punishing the guilty party.” Radiating defiant martyrdom, she gathered the burden of her siblings into her arms. She turned and marched from the room.

“Don’t walk away from me! I don’t need your permission to ground you!” Why was he following her?

“I’m doing what you asked! Do you want me to take the shoes upstairs or not?” She exploded at him in a flurry of angry barks snapped harshly over her shoulder.

“You will take all the shoes upstairs and then stay in your room until dinner because you are grounded starting NOW.” His barking echoed through the cavernous kitchen, chasing his receding child.

“FIIIIIIINE.” She stomped up the stairs. The ultimate expression of rage in their house, just below the slamming of doors.

“We do not stomp up the stairs in this house!” He barked at the ceiling. A door slams as Renis joins him.

“We do not slam doors in this house, Desiree!” She barks at the ceiling. “Get down here, right now. You are this close to a grounding!” She extends her hand towards the ceiling with her thumb and forefinger almost touching. She has no idea why, her middle child can’t see it. Renis turns to her husband. “Hi. Welcome home!” They kiss their hellos.

“Joke’s on you! I’m already grounded.” The muffled response came through the ceiling. Renis raised a questioning eyebrow at her love.

“I tripped over a bunch of her shoes by the back door. She sassed me and dared me to ground her, so I did.” Paul shrugged and his day started to slip away. Renis had that effect on him. He was just calmer when she was around.

“It’s always shoes with her. I’ve been at the edge with her all day. She wanted to wear those broken jelly shoes to school.” There was a muffled argument happening above them. Their oldest shouted a tattle. A door above them slams again. Their eyes traced a circle on the ceiling as they followed the sound of running.

“Desiree Rene Ducharme! Get down here this INSTANT! You are in big trouble young lady!” Moments later, their middle child appears defiantly before them.


7:45pm Arraignment Hearing; Living Room of the Ducharme House; Escondido, Ca.

“Three counts of Leaving Shoes by the Back Door in the first degree, two counts of Disobedience in the third degree, two counts of Sass in the first degree, two counts of excessive Stomping, two counts of Door Slamming with Intent in the first degree.” Prosecutor Paul reads the charges.

“My, we have been busy today. You’ve already had a first warning on being selfish.” Judge Renis sighs at her youngest daughter. “How do you plead?”

“Not guilty. I request a dismissal of all charges. My shoes were there for moments. You told me to leave the muddy shoes there and Sara’s shoes were…”

“You are earning a longer sentence.” The prosecutor warns.

“Officers of this court were witnesses to your behavior and there is overwhelming physical evidence to support these charges.”

“I disagree. The evidence is circumstantial! This is notification that I intend to assert an affirmative defense on the primary charges. I waive the right to bail with the stipulation that remand be applied as time served. I also request full attendance at trail.”

“So be it. Family Court Trial to commence Friday after dinner in the TV room. The defendant is remanded.” Neither adult understood how such a small eleven year old could be so filled with righteous indignation.