My God, I can’t stand bugs — never could. I mean, I grew up in Long Island, in a house with a grand, green, immaculately-maintained backyard, and I think I might have gone out there all of, like, three times. By force. There were spiders and mosquitoes and bees and stuff out there. Denene didn’t play that. So I stayed inside with my dolls and my books and far, far away from the creepy crawlies. Those unfortunate buggers that actually made it to the inside? Well, all it took was a full-on, high-pitched “Daddy!” and my father would regulate. We were a team, Daddy and I. I’d scream. He’d kill for me.
I’m not sure how I made it through my single and independent years without my personal bug slayer. It’s all a frenetic, heart-stopping blur. I do know that my Nick took up the Official Bug Killer mantle when we moved in together. For this, I was grateful. But I made a pinky-swear pact with him that when we became parents, I wouldn’t transfer my fear and disgust of my most despised critters — and there are many! — to our kids, especially if they were girls.
Fast-forward to me frantically sprinting through my house, to a corner far away from something with what’s easily 1,000 legs crawling across my kitchen floor — my baby crawling after me, giggling and wondering just what in the hell is wrong with mommy. Centipede. Tarantula. Snake. Gnat. Didn’t matter. I saw. I screamed. I ran.
Trying not to transfer extreme fear of bugs to girl child = epic fail.
But I’m working on it, I promise you. We all are. Nick tamps down the “yuck factor” by helping my girls see bugs not as gross, but as works of wonderment. “Aw man, look at the hair on that Daddy Long Legs! Pick it up and let’s see if we can look it in the eye!”
(Insert image of Denene shuddering here.)
Credit also goes to Mari and Lila’s cousins, Miles and Cole. They are boys — gross little boys who do lots of gross little things to make my girls giggle. Around Miles and Cole’s house, orange snakes are a sight to behold, bird poop is the perfect specimen for examination under the microscope, and, by God, rodents — ferrets, frogs, guinea pigs, ratty squirrels — are the epitome of awesome.
(Insert image of Denene gagging here.)
All that bug lovin’ is paying off, big time. Now, when they hear my “It’s a Bug!” shrieks, they know to grab a tissue and handle that. As they flush them down the toilet or, on their more benevolent days, free my arch nemeses into the wild — I call my girls “Mommy’s Little Heroes.” They are heroes, you know. They keep mommy from stroking out.
And honestly, they get a kick out of being the girls who don’t run screaming and crying over bugs and stuff. In fact, they run to them. Witness their Labor Day Weekend out on a fish farm with our extended family. The little girls were all-too-willing to bait their own hooks with live worms. Actually, live worm halves pinched into pieces to stretch them among 11 of us (well, 9 — neither my father-in-law nor I do worms or fish, either). Note: Half a live worm moves just as much as a whole live worm does. This is an absolutely delightful discovery for the two little girls, even if their mommy is wrinkling her nose and backing slowly away from the worm massacre.
For sure, if my girls can bait a hook with half a live worm, spiders and frogs and ferrets are about as threatening to them as a dandelion.
And for this, I’m grateful.
Mari and Lila are my heroes.