Monday, April 18, 2011

Mummy Hates Snakes (or, how to avoid transferring your irrational fears to your kids).

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.

"Er... nothing."

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.

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Stephanie Faris said...

My stepdaughter has an irrational fear of snakes...hers comes up at the oddest times. We'll be walking into a house and she'll say, "Are there snakes in here?" WHY would there be snakes in this house? Because you've never been here before? It's not even near water!

Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

I am with you. Snakes = Yuck.
However, I am a wimp, and my kids know it. I am not good at staying calm like you!

Playground Snoop said...

I'm thinking maybe being honest about the fact that you are afraid is better. Then you can talk about why they do not need to be afraid of snakes and explain your possible behavior.

I myself freak out with moths. At least snakes can hurt you even if some of them are not actually dangerous. I have not heard of a dangerous moth. sigh.

WhisperingWriter said...

I also hate snakes.

My Mom is appalled. My Mom loves all living things. She's in Texas so she comes across a lot of snakes and tells the neighborhood to please not kill them. If they're afraid, they call her now to come get the snakes and she will. Then she sets them free.

Christy said...

OMG you are SO funny! I love it! I, too, am deathly afraid of snakes. But also: bugs, spiders, reptiles...and truth be told I don't much like bunnies, ducks and many birds. What the hell is wrong with me?! I wish I had an answer for you, but I struggle with it too. I am TRYING not to freak out when I see any of the above creatures...but I'm sure sooner than later my kids are going to realize mommy is a wuss. :(

bluecottonmemory said...

I am worse about mice than snakes. I think that it is o.k. to admit you loathe them, but, you have to loathe cool. Meaning, you have to still show courage and be the snake handler when theirs a snake that needs to be handled. As a mom of 5 sons, I've taken an axe to a black snake in the yard. Once, a funny little green snake was in the living room and the boys were AGOG over it. I told one son to get my glass mixing bowl, popped it over the little guy, filled a glad bag with ice, popped it on top, let the cat sit eyeballing it until the DAD came home. You might be scared, but you can't run, you gotta handle it. Of course, my hands were shaking as I patted myself on the back! LOL

LisaDay said...

And posted a picture. That is brave. Perhaps screaming and running would be over the top but telling then you dislike snakes is not so bad. I don't mind snakes but your reasons for hating are quite valid. Don't go to Australia.


Tammy said...

For me it's spiders... so in some ways you're lucky since the chances of a snake randomly being in your house are a bit smaller than a spider in mine... :(

Shell said...

I think I WANT my boys to have this fear. Otherwise, they might ask me for a pet snake. Not going to happen.

Lady Mama said...

Shell - I think the fear of my sons wanting a pet snake is almost as bad as my fear of snakes. Of course, I'd never allow it. But still, even the thought of having one in the house...

Loukia said...

I hate snakes, too. Not as badly as you, but I get it. I hate spiders and earwigs and other bugs. All bugs. HATE. In fact, when I'm outside and a bee is near me? I run away, not even realising I've left my children in harm's way! Awful fear. I also hate blimps. No idea where that fear came from! And, seeing that we are moms of BOYS, we have to witness a lot of gross things and icky things, like snakes and bugs and worms and... well, you get the picture!

blueviolet said...

You are freakin' cracking me up!!!!

It's probably best to keep your fear under wraps a bit and maybe just tell them you don't like them, instead of saying you're afraid of them.

Lisa said...

My brother has the same fear. Which, is SUPER fun when we go camping. I'm an awful, mean spirited sister. Mwahahaha!

"Their organs are all lined up in a row. I don't know why that's wrong but it bloody is." That line made me laugh so hard I nearly hissed. Sorry. ;)

James (SeattleDad) said...

You need to get them a pet snake so your fears are not transferred to them. Just make sure it doesn't get out in the middle of the night.