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When I look back over the years, it seems like I have been a reporter forever, and in a way, I have. That’s because long before I wrote my first newspaper article, I was a tattletale.

This column serves as evidence that I’m still a tattletale, driven to report all the comical action that goes on in our home. Of course, now I’m doing it to cause a few laughs instead of trying to get my older sister and brother in trouble.

Tommy has proven to be a chip off the old block when it comes to keeping me apprised of what his brothers are up to … and into.

While Ronnie and Jimmy roll around on the floor, fighting and cursing and breaking things, Tommy sits there and watches … so he can tell me all about it.

He hears every bad word that comes out of his brothers’ mouths and then spells them back to me.

Naturally, this drives Jimmy and Ronnie crazy, which motivates Tommy to fine-tune his skills even more. He has had enough years now to be a master reporter/tattletale.

I personally do not like that last word; it is a label my older siblings gave me soon after I began talking.

The Evil Grace (six years older than me) and the Horrible Jack (four years older than me) devoted all their spare time to torturing me. As a matter of survival, I became the reporter/tattletale that I remain to this day.

I’m sure it was a happy day for baby Tommy when he finally managed to utter "Jimmy did it" for the first time and saw my furrowed brow. Finally, he had the ability to tell me what went on behind my back!

He has more than made up for those early days when all he could do was cry and hope that I figured things out. Tommy’s reports about his brothers’ badness are usually more detailed than any parent would want.

But in my own twisted way (which is something I blame on Grace and Jack), I’m a little proud of him for being such an accurate reporter.

He is not, however, the unbiased third party I was trained to be in journalism school. Tommy is always on either Jimmy or Ronnie’s side, and does his best to convince me who the truly guilty party is.

I guess it’s because he’s stuck in the middle of those two that he usually sides with Ronnie. Tommy knows what it’s like to be the kid brother, who isn’t as strong and doesn’t know as many bad words.

Jimmy often claims in his own defense that Tommy "starts things" just to get him into trouble.

I vaguely remember doing similar things when I was a kid, and those older siblings of mine fell for it every time.

Tommy enjoys doing sneaky little things to irritate Jimmy while I’m busy doing something else.

I can’t count the times I have been driving down the road and heard fighting coming from the backseat, followed by Tommy screaming like he has suffered a mortal wound.

"Jimmy, what did you do to him?" I growl over my shoulder.

"He said that just to make me hit him!" Jimmy yells from the backseat.

Whatever Tommy said was usually uttered so quietly I never heard a peep out of my middle son until after the punches started rolling. At that point, there really is only one safe reaction to the situation; it is time to fuss at both of them and tell them to cool it for a while.

"A while" usually turns out to be 15 minutes, when one of them does something to get the other started all over again. I can keep my eyes on the road, however, because my little reporter will tell me all about what I missed.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has been married to a Marine for 18 years and currently lives in Springfield, Va. You may e-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or visit her Web site at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.

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