As someone who was born into a loving family that lived in a prosperous country during a fairly enlightened historical period, I have rarely had to use that most basic lizard part of my brain. You know, that section of the human mind that is devoted entirely to mere survival.
From the moment I was born, I’ve always had shelter. I’ve always had clothes on my back (even if those clothes were all neon from 1985 to 1988). I mean, I’ve never even really had to worry about where my next meal is coming from, let alone had to hunt or forage for my food (which is good because I have a suspicion that cheese, the main staple of my diet, doesn’t grow naturally in the wild).
Hell, I’ve never even been in a physical fight, unless you count the endless Thunderdome sessions I had with my cousins growing up, which I don’t. Sure, we may have legitimately been trying to kill each other but none of us had the upper body strength to actually do it.
So, you know, it was all good family fun.
But then I became a mom. And when you become a mom, that primal part of your brain is constantly lighting up like a Christmas tree. Actually even before you become a mom. During pregnancy, you turn downright feral at times. Or at least I did. We’re talking “hunched over and devouring a steak with my bare hands while growling if anyone else got too close to my meat” level of feral.
I mean, we’re talking “striking out at anything that is a perceived threat” level of animalistic behavior.
And then there was the heightened sense of smell, which allowed me to tell which bushes other pregnant women had peed on within the last two weeks.
And when your baby finally is born, it only gets worse. For example, take how I reacted anytime someone else tried to comfort my screaming newborn. That sound, those piercing, stabby cries that are like throat punches to your very soul, should have had me overjoyed that someone, anyone, would be willing to take over for awhile (especially considering newborns like to breastfeed every 13 minutes and my body was still recovering from the gaping exit hole they slashed in my abdomen because my darling fetus thought the original exit was beneath him).
And yet, the maternal animal in me couldn’t bear to not be the one comforting him. It took everything I had not to rip that kid away from the nurses, or from my husband, or from both of our more experienced mothers when he was crying and scurry off into the corner with him like Gollum holding his precious. Because it was actually less painful to have an infant screaming in my face than to hear him crying in someone else’s arms. I just HAD to comfort him. HAD TO. My lizard brain wouldn’t let me not do it.
(Luckily this feeling passed quickly and by the time he was 2-months-old I was practically begging any stranger who had at least one arm and was not currently murdering anyone to hold my hysterical wailing BANSHEE for a FREAKING second just so Mommy could eat her sandwich WITH TWO HANDS FOR ONCE).
And then there are the lightning quick animal-esque reflexes that suddenly appear because nothing in the universe moves as fast as a message from a mom’s brain to her hand to “stop the baby from eating that firecracker.”
But nothing, NOTHING, brings my cavewoman brain front and center quite like when my now one-year-old refuses to eat the food I give him. I was actually shocked the first time I felt the rage building up inside me as he spit out green bean after green bean. And the more he resisted the food, the angrier I got. It got to the point that I was actually shaking and had to get up from the table and walk away.
Because, see, when you’re a mom, you only have one prime directive and that is to feed your children. (And judging by how my mom still stuffs me with food, this prime directive never goes away. Although, by the time you are grandmother, it has morphed into “must feed everyone within 500 yards.”). So, while the modern, logical part of my brain knows that this is just my son being a picky eater, every fiber of my cavewoman self is internally screaming “EAT IT! EAT IT NOW! OR YOU’LL STARVE! YOU’LL DIE! EAT IT EAT IT EAT IT! EAT ALL OF IT! AHHHH!”
And I know it’s only going to get worse the more he grows toward toddlerhood (the official toddler motto: “No! Icky! Poo Poo Head!”).
So, I guess the only thing left to do is buy a leopard skin unitard and a gigantic Nerf club and fully commit to this new role. Because he will eat those green beans.
Oh yes, he will.
Oog. Ugh. Grrrr…