Dear Dave

Friday 10 October 2008

Every Democrat's worst nightmare

Dear Dave,

Spiders and snakes make my skin crawl.

I don't know why. It's not like I've ever had a traumatic experience with them. I've never been trapped in a cave with a horde of arachnids nor been chased through the woods by a ten foot serpent. Heck, I've only seen snakes a dozen times in real life and on most of those occasions they were behind thick glass. I just find them creepy. As for spiders, the very idea of them makes me nervous. Especially big ones. Pictures of big spiders make we want to run away.

Actually, merely thinking about pictures of big spiders isn't too comforting. Or even big pictures of little ones. Or...

Excuse me while I go get my shoes to keep my toes safe. (Don't worry, I'll make sure to shake them out before putting them on...)

Maybe it's genetic memory. Maybe sometime way back, my ancestors got hunted by a giant snake, hid in a cave to escape and only then discovered the place was hooching with large, hairy spiders. That might have been a scary enough ordeal for me to vaguely remember it, even five hundred generations down the line.

It would be good if my kids didn't have such irrational fears, however. After all, we live in Scotland - if one of us were to stick our feet out from under the duvet during the night, there's not much chance of a tarantula taking a nibble.

That's what I keep telling myself anyway but, truth be told, I'd rather overheat than take the risk...

If the kids do have some hazy, primal recollection of that cave full of webs and eyes, there's probably nothing I can do to overcome it entirely. I do strive not to exacerbate the problem, though, working hard to conceal my own fear when a spider charges at me from underneath the sofa.

This can be difficult since any creature making a surprise appearance is liable to make me jump, whether it's a spider, a mouse or a small child hiding behind a door. (Be warned: There comes a point where the pathetic attempts of small children to scare you turn into serious attempts to induce a heart attack while making you fall down the stairs.) Still, once the initial panic is over, I endeavour to calmly and nonchalantly deal with whatever critter has attacked me. I find that transforming the whole thing into an educational event helps me regain some of my authority while distracting the kids from the fact that I've recently screamed like a young feminist confronted with some gender stereotyping.

"Hey, guys! Come look at the legs/tail/hockey mask on this!"

I know feigning bravery is worth doing because I've already passed on a touch of my arachnophobia to Sarah. I got so freaked by a couple of spiders early in our marriage, that now she gets freaked if one creeps up on her. This isn't handy. It means I'm the one who ends up having to catch them under a mug and throw them out the window.

Admittedly, my reassuring bravado isn't going to make much difference with Fraser, since he goes into a panic when buzzed by flies, but Lewis is currently quite enamoured by creepy-crawlies and I wouldn't want to put him off. If he finds a woodlouse in the house, he follows it around, studying it. He was inconsolable the other day when someone squished a spider he'd been watching for ten minutes in the school playground. He cried all the way home. He'd practically named the thing.

Marie's not too fussed about bugs either way but she has other fears. Along with a pink water bottle featuring a picture of Stephanie from Lazy Town, there were only a couple of things which she wanted for her birthday. The first was a 'No Smoking' sign to stick to her bedroom door. The second was a 'No Dogs Allowed' sign to stick beside it.

She's very pleased to have them. Now she knows she's safe at night, convinced that approaching dogs will read the signs and leave her alone. This is hard to argue with - true enough, no canines have popped into her room for a quick drag since the signs went up.

No dogs and no smoking signs on Marie's door.

For Christmas, she wants a 'No Crocodiles' sign to put above the bath.

I suppose a fear of dogs isn't very surprising when they're bigger than you are. Hopefully she'll get over it once she's taller. Smokers have already been banished from public places so they're not a big issue. That only leaves a fear of large, toothy reptiles. It shouldn't impact on her daily life too much, as long as she turns down any invites to dubious swamps or experimental theme parks.

All in all, we have an interesting mix of fears and phobias between us. With luck, we won't make each other worse and we'll be able to work together to overcome them.

Well, maybe... Plans don't always turn out quite the way I expect:

Last week, Sarah and I were standing around in the kitchen one evening, catching up on how our days had gone, when Sarah jumped as an ENORMOUS spider scuttled out from under the freezer. I jumped because she jumped and then I looked round wildly, ready for whatever scariness might confront me - a sabre-tooth tiger, a hooded assailant with a scythe, a pension statement or George W Bush pole-dancing. I spotted the spider just as it disappeared under one of the cabinets, heading straight for where I knew a mousetrap to be.

The thing was so LARGE, I was surprised the trap didn't go off. (Seriously, it was T---H---I---S--- ---B---I---G.)

I bent down to have a look. The spider was nowhere to be seen. I was face to face with a dead mouse, though. I leapt backwards, no doubt looking like I'd glimpsed a Republican in a thong.

There may have been some shrieking.

Once I'd calmed down, I dealt with the mouse, we both put slippers on, I poured out some wine to steady our nerves and then we went and cuddled up on the sofa. We watched TV, hoping the spider wouldn't get us.

It was the next evening before I managed to capture it under a glass. It was HUGE. It glared at me, shuffled around a bit and then started impatiently tapping to be let out. I didn't really want to go near it. I suspected Fraser and Sarah wouldn't be too keen either. Marie would have claimed it was a dog and run away.

That only left Lewis. He would have been happy to deal with it. Unfortunately, he would have named it and wanted to keep it.

This was such a scary concept, I was inspired to manfully scoop the spider up and throw it into the neighbour's garden.

I'm not sure what my kids would have thought if they'd seen me. It wasn't perhaps the most fearless example I could have set. Nonetheless, I did my best. My unfortunate, snake-fleeing, cave-exploring ancestors would be proud.

Yours in a woman's world,



Anonymous said...

Aaahhhh! Spiders!

My fear of spiders is only topped by my fear of snakes which is only trumped by my fear of a bat getting caught in my hair.
It's so unfortunate that these are all every day fact of life around here.

Rule #12 of Parenting: If your kids aren't around to witness your fear, it doesn't count.
You're safe.

DadsDinner said...

Hmmm... Spiders, snakes and flying mice. Fun! Do you have sharks and lipstick-wearing pitbulls as well?

As for the kids not witnessing my fear:

I heard frightened screams from the kitchen yesterday. I ran through to discover Sproglette had dropped some craft materials on the floor and had been surprised in the act of picking them up by a spider.

It was the size of a penny but she was terrified it was going to eat her beads.

The fear seems to have been passed on merely by being in the same house as me.