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A Mother’s Instinct

Posted in: Blog by admin on September 23, 2010

August 2, 2010

I was outside at a festival yesterday, surrounded by many people, including a mother and her three young children. Her littlest one dropped her pacifier on the grass, and in a quick swoop, the mom picked it up, stuck it in her own mouth and then placed it in her baby’s mouth. My reactions were instant … and contradictory. At first, I was disgusted, as the human mouth is much dirtier than the little patch of grass onto which the pacifier landed. Next, I was struck by the reaction that so many of us mothers have to simply do whatever we need to do for our babies, even if our rationale isn’t backed by science.

It’s quite beautiful if you think about it, germs aside. This woman didn’t let herself think about what was on the grass or what had previously been on the pacifier or any other thoughts that could have made her stomach weak. Rather, she thought that her baby wanted her pacifier; she wasn’t near a sink; and so she would “clean” it as she best could. The intention was a good one. Although I still wished she had simply put the pacifier back in the child’s mouth without first sucking on it herself and thereby making it even dirtier!

But look at the primal reaction therein, the animalistic facet of the event. From mice to snakes to dogs, the mothers lick their young clean. It is instinctual and necessary. Of course, we humans don’t have those same necessities as we have wipes and washcloths and soap to intervene. But, the instinct is the same. The desire to keep our young clean, to provide them with comfort, to envelop them in safety.

How many times have we all done something like that? Licked our finger and then rubbed it across our child’s face in an effort to remove marker or food … cleaned the pacifier in our own mouths. And, how much deeper does that instinct travel? We all say we would take a bullet for our child, and I’m certain those are not just words. If we watch our children experience pain, we wish we could endure it for them.

It all comes back to love, I suppose, for those desires exist for anyone whom we love deeply. There are so many feelings and traits that are learned in life, such as jealousy and insecurity and greed. So it made me smile to see something so instinctual, something with such good intentions, something that is not learned.

And, on this rare occasion, I am not even going to travel to the next stop on this thought train … no reflections about life and death. I simply am being reactive, as was the mother at the festival — as many of us often are. My reactive thoughts led me to this nice, simple conclusion: We are all so alike in so many ways, and I’m not just talking about us people. All of us. The bears, the mice, the cats, the dogs.

I am grateful for having witnessed the fall and recovery of the pacifier, for it was that simple act that triggered a more complex (yet inherently simple) reminder: We are all one.

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One Response to “A Mother’s Instinct”

  1. Richie Holleb says:

    I never knew how beautiful you could write. Your mom showed me your talent. All my love,

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