Primal mothering

January 15th, 2009

I love watching my second son eat; it satisfies some wordless mothering instinct buried deep within me, some ancient primal need to see my baby plump and well fed, pushing food into his mouth with gusto. My first, the Small Boy, is perfectly healthy but he is long and fine-boned and thin as a rail – as I was until my mid-thirties so he comes by it honestly at least. He is perfectly healthy, yet sometimes I look at Small Boy in the bath and I feel worry creeping up behind me. He doesn’t carry weight to spare, that one; he doesn’t eat much, my first boy. And I never understood how much it troubled some poory understood, barely acknowledged instinct until my second son started eating and oh how I love watching that boy eat.

They shouldn’t come as a surprise, these moments when my mothering is driven by some instinct I cannot name but can only feel. I shoudn’t be startled to discover that the same need to see a well-fed child that spurred my Irish ancestors to cross the waters lives in my blood too. It should come as no wonder that there are moments in mothering that are as old as mothering itself. And yet it does. Meal after meal I am struck as if for the first time by how much joy it gives me to watch my second son eat. How primal it is, as if each bite puts him one step further from some famine that my rational mind knows he will never face.

But there it is: oh, how I love watching that boy eat.