Being a good big brother is all about looking out for your sibling, so I always did my best to help my parents take care of my sister. Of course, I had my own very distinct ideas about what exactly that entailed. Here’s an example, from when Ann was four and I was eight.
Mom: I just can’t get Ann to brush her teeth without constantly nagging her.
Dad: I know, I’ve talked to her about it twice already. What do you think we should do?
Shawn: (from the corner, where I’m sitting, coloring) Don’t worry, I got this.
Mom: You got this? What does that mean?
Shawn: Nothing, don’t worry about it.
Mom: … Should we do something here?
Dad: If he doesn’t tell us what he’s planning, we have plausible deniability.
Mom: Good point. Carry on, sweetie.
Thus implicitly authorized by my parents to get my little sister to brush her teeth by any means necessary, I immediately went to work.
Shawn: Hey Ann, guess what?
Shawn: You know about the tooth fairy, right?
Shawn: Well, did you ever hear about the evil tooth fairy?
Ann: The evil tooth fairy?
Shawn: Uh huh. She’s just like the tooth fairy, except instead of taking your teeth when they fall out, she snatches them right out of your mouth.
Ann: (eyes widening) What?
Shawn: The worst part is, once she yanks your teeth out, she eats them right in front of you. Laughing.
Ann: But, but–
Shawn: Don’t worry though. So as long as you brush your teeth, she won’t get you. She only likes dirty teeth, because clean teeth don’t taste good to her. And they’re too hard to pull out with her pliers. Which have spikes.
Ann: If I don’t brush, she’ll really come take my teeth??
Shawn: Oh yes. Just look at this drawing.
Ann: Oh no!
Shawn: (is suddenly struck by the same realization that made medieval Catholicism go bad) … There’s another way to get rid of her, you know. You know how the good tooth fairy takes your teeth and gives you money?
Shawn: Well, if you leave the bad tooth fairy money, she won’t take your teeth. Just put a quarter under your pillow every night. Or, you know what’s easier? Just give it to me, and I’ll make sure she gets it.
Ann: But I don’t have to, right, if I remember to brush my teeth?
Shawn: Hmm, I dunno. What if you forget or don’t do a good enough job? Do you really want to wake up in the middle of the night to see the evil tooth fairy standing over your bed, eyes glowing red in the night, cackling as she eats your filthy teeth right in front of you?
Ann: (panics) Mooooooooomm!!! (runs out of the room)
Shawn: Dang, overdid it.
My parents were not exactly pleased by my attempt to set up an evil tooth fairy extortion racket. I admit I probably deserved the stern talking-to I received. I will say, however, that even though my parents disabused Ann of the notion that there was an evil tooth fairy waiting to attack her in the night, they could not totally efface the primal fear I’d managed to instilled in her heart. As a consequence, you can bet your ass she started brushing her teeth. And if my methods work, is it really so bad to expect a little remuneration for my efforts? Just sayin’.