Facing Fears and Fluffy Bunnies

My husband and I struck a bargain when I was pregnant with our first child. He might argue that I extracted his promise like juice from an orange, but still, a deal was struck. He agreed to stop spitting in public. I could rest easy knowing that our kids would never walk down Main Street hawking goobers “just like dad.”

In return, I promised to rise above my fear of all things creepy, crawly, swarmy and squirmy. I had to get over my phobia of bugs.

My husband is an excellent bug squasher. It’s one of the reasons I married him. If you suddenly find yourself confronted by a gigantic alien water bug covered in sprouting hairs, my husband can calmly intervene with a large paper towel. Or a shoe.

I was happily married to my own personal insecticide – until I started having maternal reservations. I remembered my mother’s fear of snakes as a palpable thing, quick and slithering. And catching. Anything that can make mom scream like that is surely a code-red-category-five-emergency. You don’t mess with terror.

I decided that my kids might like a chance to, well, . . . like bugs. I learned to greet the appearance of enormous spiders, earwigs, and carpet beetles with a calm demeanor. And the hand vacuum. My smile may have been rigid, but it held back the curse words. I didn’t even shudder.

Six years later, my four-year old loves bugs almost as much as she loves ice cream. Her favorite? Spiders, of course. The bigger the better. She calls them “fluffy bunnies” and would cuddle them if she could. Spider-Man is her hero. Our house is an entomological wonderland. We catch insects together, study them, count their legs and eyes and wings.

My little spider lover is also fascinated by snakes, by their movement, their sinuous grace. At the zoo, with my daughters along, I run my hand down a snake’s cool back. There’s no code-red. Not even any terror.

Unlike her sister, my oldest child has no love for creepy crawlies. Still, even she finds ways to catch me in my fears. In high school, I hurled algebra books in frustration; now, I have a child who sees the world in terms of math. I am learning to cultivate an enthusiasm for numbers, along with spiders, snakes, and other tricky marvels.

Let’s face it: having kids is a fearful business. There is always another edge, another way to split your heart with fear – and wonder. Children fracture our old lives, our old selves, and, inside those fractures, we find the room to grow. We get a new chance to like bugs or snakes or bats, to embrace heights or public speaking. We get a new chance to invent exactly who we are. Who we want to be.

It’s true that my kids have never hawked goobers on the street. It’s also true that, someday, I might just have to teach them.

Follow Lisa on Twitter at @lisa_ahn

Image: cia de foto
18 Responses to “Facing Fears and Fluffy Bunnies”
  1. Rita Kothbauer

    My two girls brought an end to my fear of lightening, and public speaking. Speaking in front of a crowd of Brownie and Girl Scout families wasn’t easy but I wanted to set a good example. In turn they (now 22 and 20) continually amaze me with their bravery and courage.

    • Lisa

      Public speaking still scares me . . . but I do it! Thanks for the comment!

  2. Awesome article, Lisa!

    With Sweet P I had to get over my fear or climbing/falling, and Buckaroo is teaching me how to talk to strangers.

  3. Dianna Kreidler

    Loved this! I have passed on many fears to my kids…so I will rethink my reactions next time!

    • Lisa

      Thanks Dianna. I am sure that for every fear I’ve conquered, I’ve probably passed on a handful more. Still, I love the way the girls challenge me to be better than myself.

  4. Perhaps when I have kids I’ll get over my fear of stepping in the cold puddles left by rogue ice cubes while wearing socks?

    That might be too niche of a fear. =)

    Thanks Lisa! Great to have your zest here!

    • Lisa

      Those rogue ice cubes are scary, man!
      (thanks Seth :) )

  5. s-

    Another great commentary on life and love, Lisa! Thanks for sharing! xo

  6. dan frank

    Loved this– my life us all about fractures!

  7. Carey Mount

    Lisa, thanks for sharing! I would love to read more!

  8. Wow, you brave, brave woman! Fluffy?? Not in a bajillion years!

  9. Well, yes, I am proud of you, Lisa, but I’m sorry for your husband. I’m a man who grew up as a boy with women and girls only, and if I’d ever even thought about spitting, I’m sure it was quickly shamed out of me. As I began to outgrow my overly-feminine-ized acculturation in my 40′s (I’m a late bloomer), I began to notice how common it was for men to spit — like VERY COMMON, Lisa. As I noticed this (along with my complete lack of spitting) I began to notice even more to discover that I seemed to be one of the few men who didn’t spit. As someone interested in “why we human beings are the way we are”, I began to wonder if spitting IS some NATURAL function for men who haven’t been too acculturated out of their natural qualities. Still wondering. It hasn’t risen to the level of serious-enough interest to devote the time to researching the topic, but I do spit now and I like it!

    • Lisa

      Tom, Thanks for that perspective. I don’t think my husband has any lasting scars, but I’ll check. He happily spits when the children aren’t around. :)

    • Fascinating thoughts, Tom!

      If salivary glands respond to social pressure, what’s in store?

  10. Life with kids never ceases to be amazing, challenging and ironic! :) I agree with the algebra phobia! Yikes!

    • Lisa

      Hi Andrea,
      Yes, the math sometimes does me in!

  11. Hi, Lisa!

    I loved this post! Me, I like my animals cute and cuddly, But when my daughter was little, I read the book “Stellaluna” to her – which is about a baby bat that gets separated from her family. This, I believe, is what started her love of bats. All bats. Fruit bats, little brown bats, even vampire bats (which get a bad rap, I’m told).

    We’ve built bat houses. We drove miles – and survived a flat tire – to attend an International Bat Festival. I know more about bat conservation than I thought I ever would. I’ve held bats, petted them, measured them, even. And you know what? They’re pretty cool -down to their tiny sharp teeth. You’re right. Kids open your eyes to things you otherwise would never see.

    • Lisa

      Hi Diane,
      I am so impressed — bats are next on my list of fears to conquer. So far, I’ve been able to skate by, as my kids haven’t shown much interest. But you are inspiring me here! Maybe we’ll meet you at the next International Bat Festival. Maybe I won’t even cringe . . . !

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