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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The Full Suburban: When there’s a dictator in the family, what else to do but fall in line?

Hyrum Ditto runs the show in the Ditto household.  (Julia Ditto)
Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

A lover of history and all things boring, I’ve been listening lately to a podcast called “Real Dictators.” It goes in-depth into the rise and tyrannical rule of some of history’s most notorious dictators, like Stalin, Pol Pot and Hitler. It’s a pretty chilling listen – not something you’d want to indulge in while getting ready for a child’s birthday party, say, or trimming the tree for Christmas.

Not only does it detail some of the worst moments in human history, but it also brings into sharp focus one unsettling fact, which is: I think I might be raising my own little dictator right here among the quiet pines of the Spokane Valley. His name is Hyrum, and he’s 8 years old.

A darling and precocious little boy who has only occasionally shown signs of being a psychopath (please refer to the kitten incidents of 2019 and 2021), Hyrum has all of us wrapped around his little finger. Only big brother Emmett seems to be onto him, pointing out frequently that Hyrum is spoiled and gets away with whatever he wants.

“I don’t know what you want me to do, Emmett,” I say to him each time he brings up these facts. “Hyrum is my overlord and I am merely his patsy.”

Case in point: Last week, Hyrum came downstairs for breakfast, long after his older siblings had eaten and headed off to school. As our final elementary school kid, Hyrum’s bus comes last of all, so his mornings are fairly laid back compared to the dark and early mornings of his older brothers and sister.

Pancakes were still out on the table, along with an egg I’d scrambled minutes before, so I made up a plate for Hyrum and popped it in the microwave so it would be nice and hot for my little prince when he sat down at the kitchen counter to eat.

“Here you go, buddy,” I said, sliding the plate in front of him before turning back to my conversation with Logan, who happened to be home for a rare slow morning. Hyrum may have muttered a thank you (but probably not) before reaching for the jar of syrup and, without looking up, holding it out to me.

“This isn’t warm,” he said – just like a little tyrant.

Logan and I looked at each other in bemused horror, wondering if Genghis Khan’s parents ever felt this way. Maybe it was time to put our collective foot down, we realized.

I ventured out first. “I bet you could figure out a way to heat it up,” I said to him timidly. “Or just eat it cold?”

He shrugged his shoulders, already bored by this conversation with his useless serfs.

“Whoa, I think it’s time we bring the hammer down on this kid,” Logan said. “He clearly thinks he’s running the show.”

“Yeah, no way is that kind of behavior going to fly,” I said, carefully constructing a sandwich with exactly three slices of ham – no cheese, no mayo – to slide into Hyrum’s lunch box.

“Buddy, do you want a granola bar or fruit leather in your lunch today?” I asked him as he polished off his final bite of pancake.

“Neither – I’m tired of them both,” he replied. “But I want to bring a whole roll of Ritz crackers for snack time this week. It’s what all the other kids do, and I want to, too.”

“Yes, my liege,” I said as I hurried to the pantry to find an untouched roll of crackers. “Shall I put it in the front pocket of your backpack, or somewhere else?”

“Front pocket is fine,” he said, waving me off.

“You’re doing great,” Logan said, amused. “Way to show him who’s boss.”

“Hey, I don’t see you over here working to overthrow the monarchy,” I replied.

Clearly, we have some work to do before we can stage a coup against our little despot. But in the meantime, please don’t send me impassioned emails about how we are over-indulging this child and really need to get him in check, lest the world suffer future collapse at his hand. The “Real Dictators” people have already been in touch; the episode is coming out next week.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at