My children are at their hungriest one half hour before dinner. It doesn’t matter if it’s early or late, the words, “Heads up girls, dinner will be ready in half an hour,” inspires them to migrate to the kitchen to gaze into the cabinets and refrigerator for anything we have that isn’t dinner. And then it begins.
“Can I have a popsicle?”
“Not before dinner.”
“Can I have this granola bar?”
“Dinner will be ready in less than half an hour.”
“Can I have some cheese?”
“You can have dinner in about half an hour.”
“But I’m hungry!”
“That’s good. You should be hungry. It’s almost dinner time.”
“Can I just have some strawberries? Strawberries are healthy.”
“Yes, but if you fill up on strawberries now, you won’t eat your dinner, so you can wait for dinner. The strawberries will be there later.”
“But I’m so hungry!”
“If you’re still hungry after dinner, you can have some strawberries then.”
Well, last night, Julia spotted some blue Marshmallow Peep Chicken Bunnies in the snack cabinet.
“MOM,” she groaned. “Can I please, please, PAH-LEASE have some peeps? Please? I’ll eat all my dinner, I promise.”
“Not before dinner.”
“You have to eat your dinner first.”
And that’s how Julia was motivated to eat every bite of her dinner. Lucy wasn’t so inspired.
“Mom,” Julia ventured. She’d worked hard to restrain herself for one full, torturous minute after her plate was clean before posing the question I knew was coming. Struggling to keep her cool, she asked, “Can I have some Peeps now?”
“Hold on, Jules. Lucy isn’t finished, yet. You can both have Peeps once you’re both finished.”
“What if Lucy doesn’t finish?”
“Then there will be no Peeps.”
I know. It didn’t seem fair. But I glimpsed the meltdown that was certain to come if Julia got Peeps and Lucy didn’t. And Bill Cosby said it best: “Parents are not interested in justice. They want quiet!”
Julia sighed and turned her attention to Lucy and the creamy chicken castle she’d built on her plate. “You know you have to eat that if we’re going to get Peeps, Lucy.”
Lucy just grinned and filled her moat with milk.
Julia looked panicked. “Mom?”
“Lucy, you still have to eat that. And you better hurry. You’ve got ten minutes before bath time.”
Julia’s eyes darted from side to side as she contemplated the challenge before her. “Alright,” she shouted, standing up and facing Lucy. “You can do this. We need those Peeps.”
And suddenly, it was like an episode of Fear Factor in our dining room.
Julia scooped up a handful of dinner and said, “Open your mouth. Open your mouth, Lucy! You can do this.”
Lucy’s eyes met Julia’s and grew wide.
“You want those Peeps, don’t you Lucy?”
Lucy nodded and said, “I can do this.”
“You can,” Julia nodded as milk dripped from her clenched fingers. And then she shoveled the contents of her fist right in Lucy’s mouth.
Lucy closed her eyes, chewed, and chewed and chewed, finally swallowing, shuddering, then opening her gob for more. They went on like this for at least four more rounds before Lucy held up a hand and cupped her mouth.
“C’mon Lucy. C’mon Lucy, you can do it. Do it for the Peeps!!!!”
By golly, that kid ate every milk-soaked bite on her plate. And there were Peeps. My God, there were Peeps.