Taking the Bait and Guarding the Peas
This had been planned several weeks ago, before the Return of the Pinch, and for a couple of days it looked like it might not happen. But who knows the workings of a five-year-old's mind? Yesterday morning, Ginger pronounced her eagerness to sleep over here at Pincer House.
We told MG, and she swore up down and sideways that she'd be a good host. I passed on some of the excellent suggestions left in comments below, and RW delivered a parenting coup de grace in the form of an illustrated parable about the sad little fish who bit the worm and ended up as dinner, and the happy little fish who resisted and was able to swim merrily on with its life. Moral of the story, as all of us with any relatives whatsoever know all too well: DON'T TAKE THE BAIT, whether that bait is a worm or the annoying tics of your school friend. Don't do it! Don't! It will just get you in trouble!
So Ginger came over, and she and MG arfed like puppies in their delight at seeing each other. They were eager waitresses at dinner time, scurrying back and forth carrying plates of mac and cheese and bowls of peas (warmed for us, still frozen for them-- frozen peas being a rare delicacy at our house) with only occasional whines of "Hey, not fair, she got to carry three things and I only got to carry two things!"
At dinner time, MG and I commenced the "Watching the Peas" game. Basically, the premise is that the plastic bowl of frozen peas is mine, "for later," and MG's job is to keep an eye on it for me while I eat the rest of my dinner, because I am saving the yummy frozen peas for last. She gleefully crams peas into her mouth while I studiously look the other way, snapping my head over in her direction every once in a while to make sure she's guarding the peas well, then narrowing my eyes suspiciously and declaring that there seem to be fewer peas than there were before, and what's that in her mouth, anyway? "I think the cat got them," she'll mumble, chewing furiously. "I'm just eating my mac and cheese! Really!"
(Occasionally she gets freaked out at all this deliberate disobedience and lying, and hisses out of the corner of her mouth, "I'm really supposed to eat them, right?" and I hiss back, "Yeah, it's fine, that's the game." This exchange must be whispered, ideally while looking elsewhere, as if we're spies meeting on a park bench.)
The Peas Game drove Ginger bananas. She watched gravely during the setup ("Now, you'll keep an eye on these peas for me, right?" "Yep, I'll watch them for you." "And don't eat any!" "Oh, I won't!"). As soon as I turned to my dinner, she comenced to tattling. "She's eating them!" she shrieked. "Elswhere, MG's eating your peas! She's eating them!"
I leaned over and muttered, "It's okay! It's a game! You can help her!"
"Yeah," MG whispered. "I'm supposed to eat them!"
I turned to MG and said, in a normal tone, "Hey, where'd all my peas go? Didn't there used to be more of them?"
"It was a ghost!" MG grinned with green teeth. "A ghost got them while I wasn't looking for a second!"
Ginger's gaze flitted suspiciously from MG, to me, back to MG. Then, all of a sudden, she got it. "It was a ghost!" she yelled. "I saw it! A ghost ate your peas, Elswhere!"
"Yeah, a ghost!" MG chimed in.
"Hey, can I guard your peas next?" Ginger asked.
"Sure," I agreed. "Just as sure as I eat these...hey! They're all gone! MG, DID YOU EAT MY PEAS?"
Raucous laughter. "Ha, ha! I ate them!" "She ate them! It was really her! Hee, hee! We tricked you! My turn now!"
Really, a bowl of frozen peas is a small price to pay for a precious bonding moment like that.