When I was young I developed an unhealthy fear of snakes. I can't pinpoint the exact moment or the specific reasons why, but my apprehension grew over the years until eventually I couldn't stand to look at a picture of them and even had nightmares about them.
Being a parent has tempered my outward fears, but I still hate them, and here's why.
- They're sneaky. They slither around silently in tall grass so that no one hears them coming.
- They have no legs. What kind of land creature has no legs? What kind of stealthy, sly gargoyle, slides around on its belly all day?
- They shed (... I can hardly say it without gagging) their skin. Which is totally inconsiderate. Someone else has to pick that shit up.
- They have thin tongues that shoot out when they're thinking about devouring you.
- They have beady little eyes to spy you from metres away.
- They're greedy buggers. They eat things that are far too big for them and then lie there displaying their feast in their bulging belly.
- Their organs are all lined up in a row. I don't know why that's wrong but it bloody is.
- They can be up to 25 metres in length. That's about twenty four point eight metres too long.
- They could take over the world and kill all the humans. You know it's true.
- They kill with poison or constriction. CONSTRICTION. (image of snake wrapping itself around my neck in progress)
So basically I hate them.
I once saw a snake in the park just up the road from us. It was a perfectly pleasant summer day and I was pushing my son in his stroller, large with my second son. It was twenty feet away but I saw it. I screamed as though I'd seen a murder victim and ran the other way, clutching my babies - the one in my belly and the one in the stroller, fearing for our lives. And even though it was a ten-inch non-venomous grass snake, you just never know.
I worry, though, about transferring my fear to my sons. What if they pick up on it, and turn it their own nightmare? What if they're missing out on the opportunity to not be afraid of snakes. Maybe there's something (can't believe I'm going to say this) not-putrid about snakes, that they could discover.
Around my sons (apart from that one time in the park) I try to conceal my fear of snakes. If my son points out a picture of a snake in a book, or on TV, I try to act cool. I smile (ish) and comment on it without being negative.
Then this past weekend we were at a pet store, because that is the kind of thing we do when it's snowing in Spring and we're trying to find things to fill the time.
Passing the various species, we arrived at the fish, then the birds.
Suddenly - and it was the subdued tone of his voice that made me jump - J warned me:
"Sarah don't look to your left."
Resisting the urge to scream, I bolted the other way, almost tripping over my own feet.
"What. What. What the hell is that? Is that a SNAKE? Is there a SNAKE in there? Where is it?"
"Mummy, what's wrong?" My son asked.
Parenting has done that to me: I'll stay composed even when I'm gripped by a fear that makes me imagine something is crawling up my pant leg.
"Mummy, are you afraid of snakes?" My son asked.
"Er... no. Not really." I lied.
"Snakes are... you know... fine." I continued, waving a finger in the direction of the dark, gloomy tanks over by the other side of the wall, where I suspected the beasts were lurking, probably watching me, waiting to break through their glass enclosures and dig their poisonous fangs into my neck before constricting me to death.
Turns out, there were no snakes there. Just lizards and tree frogs.
But it leads me to the question: should we hold our fears back from our kids, or should we be honest about them?
One day, my kids are going to find out that Mummy actually despises snakes and would rather clean a toilet with her own toothbrush that meet one in person. I guess my hope is, by the time they find out, they'll have developed their own opinion and not have inherited my phobia.
What do you think?
Excuse me while I go throw up now. I just wrote a whole post about snakes.