It’s been bugging me for several days, so I have to get it out of my system. Why are some people (I dare not label it with any gender or age qualifiers) terrified of insects? I can understand some of the fear of large animals, especially those that are supposed to be dangerous to humans or seem to do a lot of gory damage, like tigers, crocodiles, sharks–admitted, few animals see people as natural prey, but food is food, and if we walk onto the ‘plate’. Add salt and pepper to taste, a good dish should not go to waste.
Recently, my second grader has gone through several transformative months, during which she has moved from being neutral about insects to being absolutely mortified by them. Screaming fits, if they are in the car with us, are one of the little hazards with which I now have to deal. As the weather improves, and I like to drive with the car windows open, I get “Shut the window! Don’t let them in! They’ll eat me!” Now, I try to reason that even if the bug had a hug appetite, it would have a hard time eating a child–true, a few nibbles a day will eat the child away. I’m cool with insects. Snakes? No thanks. Worms, beetles, bees, centipedes, and all their cousins, brothers, sisters and friends, do not hold any fears for me. Merely mention them and I have wild dervish charging around the house, whooping and wailing and looking to hide under a bed or inside a cupboard. Irrational? I’d say so. But, real enough.
The calm I exude does not counter the fear that she feels. I showed her the picture of a stink bug trying to help me with a crossword puzzle and she just rolled her eyes: “You are truly weird!” I explained that, really, the poor mite (I know they are another species) was just trolling around and soon went off on his or her business. “But, they are smelly!” I explained that that’s only the case if you squash them: I leave them alone, they do not make a smell. “Gross!” This is a no-win situation. We cannot discuss the critters, and I suspect cannot deal with the fear through rational discourse. So, she will have to grow out of her fear, or live with it into adulthood.
I remember a friend at university, with whom I shared a house, along with about 5 other people. One night, we were all sitting on the sofas watching TV. Suddenly, she let out a chilling scream, jumped up, and flapped her arms at her body as she were administering a beating on herself. “Get it off me! Get it off me! I hate them!” We all looked at her, puzzled. We could see nothing. We asked what we should remove. “The spider! Get it off!” There was nothing on her clothes, or in her hair, or on her skin. But, something had touched her and she had assumed it was her bugaboo. She told us that she was an arachnophobe. We understood. We tried to calm her, and it took a few hours. I cannot remember now how the evening ended, but let’s say that she managed to get to sleep soundly. She has gone on to live a happy life, occasionally plagued by spiders, I imagine.
I hope my little one grows out of her fears soon. In the meantime, I have to remember not to use insects or models of them in any pranks. The results could be regrettable.