Orangutans at the table: Life with three wild boys.

In my pre-Mama days, I watched a nature program about scientists raising a few orphaned juvenile orangutans in the jungle. The mothers had been poached and they never had the benefit of socialization.

The scientists were living with the animals in a camp. The scene that has stayed with me all of these years is one where the animals are being offered some food at a picnic table. A woman is shown trying to lay out a meal of fruit and whatnot while simulateously trying to fend off three eager primates who are snaking their arms around her, grabbing at food.

If you’ve ever seen these animals, you are aware how long those arms are! The woman was pivoting wildly from one side to the other, taking back food, turning, no, no, put that back! Not yet!

I recall being astounded by the total pandemonium. Give up, lady! Just throw down the food and zip yourself into that tent!

Flag forward a dozen years later I have three sons and that nature film streams live in my kitchen every day. It’s a feral situation! Veteran mothers of sons may not be surprised, but even having grownup with three brothers who talked about poop at every single meal, my kids are able to take the shenanigans to a new level.

They are autistic and it is part of my job to enforce food therapies and social-emotional regulation. Particularly during the pandemic when they have not had full access to all of their therapies.

I am trying to socialize my little wildlings. Using a napkin, eating with utensils, not shoveling food two-fisted into their mouths, and not having a full tantrum when non-preferred food items are offered.

It’s definitely not an option to zip myself into a tent, so I play the naturalists/socio-therapist at every meal. And let me tell you, I get massive points above those scientists who did not also have to deal with the silly-talk component.

My orangutans do know how to sweep the kitchen. Credit where credit I due, fellas.

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