Sick with a stomach flu brought back from Ireland (apologies to anyone on Delta flight 91) Mingus and Beluga are lying on the couch watching a two minute scene from Dinosaur over and over. A T.Rex charges out from behind a tree and devours a clueless triceratops. I am their accomplice, operating the rewind button. Mingus exclaims: “Again!” and Beluga, at 18 months, seconds him: “Gen!” They are not appalled by the violence; they sit transfixed.
Not long ago, Mingus competently examined each dinosaur’s teeth at the Natural History Museum to guess what they eat. Not all teeth are the same and the boys like to talk about which teeth to use for different tasks. There are the incisors in the front for all the carnivorous activity, which we call “ripping”. And the molars – “the grinders” – are the tools of the docile herbivore. We bite, chew, chomp, grind, rip, tear and masticate our food. Because children live in the moment, many of our conversations surrounding meals involve testing these methods and joking about the distinctions between them. Mingus chomps a bit of lettuce, roars like a lion and bursts out laughing. It isn’t long – if it hasn’t happened already – that Mingus looks at his own teeth and recognizes what his teeth mean about him.