“Can I eat you up please?” I ask my twelve-year old son, who does not react. He does not even look at me blankly. He carries on with whatever he is doing, pretending that he never heard me.
When he was younger, I had managed to startle him when I first said these words. But as he grew older, I said it so often that he happily ignored me. Presently, it is treated as one of those commands like “get off your phone”, “switch off the T.V.” or “pick up your socks from the floor.” Earlier, I worried that he might conclude that his Mom is a cannibal. Thankfully, that never happened.
Despite my continual threats to eat him up, he continues to trust me without ever displaying being threatened.
In his babyhood days, this urge of mine would be so strong that I would actually squeeze him tight or just nibble his toe or cheek. There were innumerable moments where he looked so super cute that I caught myself saying that I would gobble him up. Of course, we all understand that was not what I meant. Yet, I found deep satisfaction in just saying the words and crushing him like he was a big ball of cotton candy. After this completely uncontrollable act, I would push myself into a well of guilt thinking what a weird and sick mom I am. Clearly, I am anything but normal.
As far as I remember I have been saying these gory words to him ever since he was born, even before he could understand what I said. Strangely I never wondered why I loved saying this to him all the time. Until recently, I googled it.
I found a scientific explanation on a website which said that the smell of a new born baby triggers a surge of dopamine for new moms similar to the reward response that comes with satisfying a craving for food, the study researchers found.
Apparently, this phenomenon has a name and a sociological purpose. The website said that this was commonly known as cute aggression, “Dimorphous expressions” and can be helpful in controlling our emotions, according to the findings by psychological scientists at Yale University.
“Thank goodness” I told myself, “Congratulations on normalcy!”
My doubts were completely put to rest when I found my friend, cousin and sister say the exact same words to their kids and get the exact same reactions too.
My eyes sparkled when I heard them say these words and my son and I exchanged knowing glances. My self-doubt had turned into a feeling of pride. “Look, all moms do this,” my eyes said to my son. “Whatever mom!” said his expression.
I don’t know if I will ever stop saying these words to my son. They are more important than a regular I love you that I say every night before he goes to bed or I am so proud of you on his achievements or Bravo when he does something outstanding. Probably, the same holds true for him too. He hears it so often that it leaves him with no choice but to anticipate it, often more than once in the day.
But the emotions that transcend into our world every time I say it are precious and unexplainable. There is a sense of comfort and security that surrounds us, as soon as these words roll out of my tongue. Despite the tug of war with the tsunami of hormones for my tween, these beastlike words manage to lighten our stressful moments. As insane as it sounds, I am convinced that it is one of the invaluable ingredients that strengthens our bond.
Surabhi Kaushik is an Indian writer, based in Charlotte North Carolina. Her work has been published in several portals such as www.writer’scafe.org and www.yourstoryclub.com. She is part of various writing groups in Charlotte and is closely associated with “Write Like You Mean It”, a writer’s group in Main library, Charlotte, North Carolina. She also leads a Fiction Writing group that meets every month at Main Library Charlotte. She has worked extensively in multiple advertising agencies in India before re-locating to the United States of America in 2015.