Three things I have to put out here at the beginning, so you’ll understand. One is that I watched The Cannonball Run many times as a child. Two is that I’ve seen LOTS of nature shows. Three is that I am haunted by my Psych 101 textbook.
We’ve got a new member of the family here, and that has resulted in MANY changes. Not the least of which is that the husband and I talk about the critter a LOT. As do most parents, we rarely use our son’s given name, but rather use many nicknames, aliases and pseudonyms. The Critter, the boy, the young’un, YOUR son, a series of words that rhyme with his name, and “HIM” or “HE.” This is certainly not a biblical reference, but rather a simple pronoun. HOWEVER, because I’ve seen The Cannonball Run a million times a million years ago (and I’m fairly certain that Dave has not), I can’t have a conversation in which we refer to the critter as “HIM” without thinking of Captain Chaos, played by Dom Deluise – Dun dun DUNN!!!
I’m sure that Dave is ashamed that I even admitted this, so we will speak of it NO MORE.
As I’m moving through my new daily life, I find myself thinking of my role as “The Mother.” Not as A mother, but as THE mother. This has to be a reflection of my educational history and the many nature shows I’ve watched. You know, as in, “For the first months of his life, the cub stays close to the mother,” and “When danger threatens her offspring, the mother chimp is ready to defend her baby,” and “The mother must provide for all of the baby elephant’s needs.” THE MOTHER seems more like a biological function sometimes than anything else. Depending on my mood, I’m either amused or tired by this observation.
“To calm her infant, the mother replaces the pacifier in her crying baby’s mouth.”
“The mother supplies breastmilk, nature’s perfect food, to her child 8-12 times a day.”
“When diapers need changing, the mother provides entertainment as well as a clean diaper.”
“The mother is the baby’s primary source of comfort, having carried her baby for nine months in the womb.”
It’s the comforting function that I keep coming back to, and that I’m haunted by. Anyone who took Psych 101 in college has heard about the experiments performed on rhesus monkeys in which babies were separated from their real mothers and “raised” by cloth or wire “surrogates.” The experiments proved that infants needed not just warmth and food, but also gentle contact. But the process and outcomes make me want to weep for those babies. Without any contact from their real mothers – or any living creature – the babies were given a choice of a “mother” made of wire that had a feeding nipple on it, or a “mother” made of warm, soft terry cloth that provided no food. Invariably, when presented with both choices, the baby would choose the comforting mother. When the baby was hungry, however, it would feed from the wire “mother” and then return to the cloth “mother.”
When these babies that were raised in insolation were then introduced to others, they couldn’t behave as they should have, since they were traumatized by lack of socialization and had not learned how to be rhesus monkeys. Much has been made of these studies in theories of attachment parenting and such, and I won’t get into all of that. But my heart breaks for both the babies and the mothers that were forced to go through these experiments, and I cling closer to our little guy.