I love watching my son eat.
Last night, it was just him and me at the dinner table. Jeff left earlier for a trip to LA, and the baby went down for the night shortly before. T is sick, so I let him nap much longer than usual to let his body do its thing. I roused him from his sleep around 7:30 pm with a sippy cup of warm milk in hand, thinking that he should have something even if he had no appetite. But he popped himself up, and said, "Yes, I want dinner!"
I brought him downstairs, sat him on his booster seat, and wrapped the owl bib around his neck. He asked for the personal pan pizza that he didn't eat for lunch. While a slice was heating in the toaster oven, I cut up a link of hot dog (microwaved) and poured out some frozen peas (still frozen, just the way he likes them). Not a gourmet dinner, I know, but when my son is sick, I let him eat whatever he wants. My goal is just to put some food in his little tummy.
When I laid the food in front of him, he picked up the pizza with both hands and clamped his little fingers around the crust, the same way he holds his harmonica. The grease immediately oozed onto his fingernails, and little pockets of tomato sauce squeezed out through the cheese. He brought the slice up to his puckered lips and took a big bite. And then another, and then a third. He chewed open mouthed, showing little bits of masticated crust, mozzarella, and tomato sauce wedged between his gaping teeth. His dimples moved up and down with the rhythm of his bites.
As he chewed, he scrutinized his slice of pizza, turning it this way and that. It became a plane, then a spaceship, then a hot air balloon. Then without a second thought, he dropped the slice down on his plate and started fingering the frozen peas. Pop, pop, they went into his mouth.
Between bites, little drops of three-year old thoughts fell out :
"Mama, I'm a little big boy!"
"I'm three years old, not four years old, just three years old!"
"Mama, can I get another lego set if I poo-poo in potty?"
After the peas, he grabbed the hot dog. All four pieces at once. He assembled them, saying "They were like this! Mama, were they like that?" as he re-constructed the link that had been divided. Then he rammed all four pieces into his mouth. There they dangled, until I told him to take them out.
T dropped all of the pieces onto his plate, and then picked up just one piece once again. He gripped the quartered link with all of his fingers, and started chewing on it as if he were gnawing on a piece of beef jerky. He worked at it until the piece was done. Then his greasy hands grabbed the sippy cup of warm milk, and he sipped and sipped and sipped until he was satisfied.
As he ate, I just watched him. Less than two feet away from his face. Openly gazed at him as he chewed, played with his food, sipped his milk. It was nothing unusual for him. To have his mommy stare at him as he chewed with his mouth open while we discussed numerous topics of conversation, from his birthday party in October to various offerings of lego sets to sounds made by cougars to his preschool friends.
By the time he was finished, he had a milk and tomato sauce moustache coated with cheese and hot dog grease. Petite English peas covered the floor and the bottom of his booster seat. The black table shined with the smear of food stains. Drops of milk trailed from his cup to his plate to his bib. And a little boy with a full belly was ready to play.