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Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Parenting -- when a bug gets in the way

“Mommy, get it! Kill the spider!”
            I stared into the panicked face of my five-year-old daughter and that was when I knew I was finally all grown up. I’d become the adult I’d often summoned myself when an eight legged or other legged creature invaded my space. I have many memories of my own father grumbling when my brother or I dragged him away from his favorite sitcom to crush an intruder we’d discovered on our bedroom wall. Dad didn’t mess around. To our horror and awe he’d pick the enemy up in his bare hands, carry it to the bathroom and flush it into oblivion. If Dad wasn’t home my mother took over the deed. The only difference, she’d use toilet paper as a buffer between it and her manicure.
            It’s not like a bug or two hadn’t appeared lounging in the comfort of my home before I had children. If they took up residence in the shower, I would just take a bath. If they wanted the den, I’d read a book in my bedroom. Eventually they’d disappear and I’d assume they went back to where they came from. Occasionally, when I really needed to use the room they were in, I’d get a big shoe and attempt to smush the creature only to have it drop from the ceiling it was scurrying across causing me to do a little salsa dance and jig through my living room. Needless to say I was a very poor exterminator and dancer.
            It is not written in any parenting handbook, but you cannot act afraid of a bug in front of your five year old. It is reasonable to surmise this would undermine any future attempt to convince them there are no such things as monsters and therefore they should not be afraid of what’s under their bed or in the basement.
            “I can’t sleep with a bug in my room!” My daughter said. “And Daddy’s not home.”
             If only Daddy were here. He knew bug killing did not fall under my jurisdiction. I did labor and delivery, breast feeding and poopy diapers. He was in charge of bug murder. My husband had a similar ritual as my own mother when it came to extermination; toilet paper, squash and flush. When he was feeling especially generous or environmental he’d get some newspaper and try to coax our little friend on to it and then carry it outside to where it came from. My husband is a bug racist. It was always the cuter bugs, like ladybugs that he saved while spiders or beetle looking things ended swimming for their lives.
            “Don’t worry, Mommy will take care of it,” I said.
            My daughter watched me with wide eyes as I confidently went into the bathroom and gathered enough toilet paper to stuff a pillow. Then I stood on her bed a safe distance from the hairiest, ugliest spider I’d ever seen. Lean in and just squish it, I told myself. Maybe I should get one of my husband’s Timberland boots? Before I could reconsider, eight legs were on the move heading towards me. I jumped backwards off the bed with a little yelp.
            “Ah!” My daughter went running out of the room. This was not good. I was going to give her a permanent fear of all many legged creatures.
            “Nothing to be scared of,” I said. “Just gotta get more toilet paper.”
            She came back in the room. “Where did it go?” Her eyes searched the ceiling and walls.
            I stood up on my tiptoes looking around. Where did it go? Was it on me? I shook my head. I did a little salsa footwork. Focus. Calm down. Grow up, I said to myself.
            “There! It’s over there!” My daughter pointed right above her window. The spider was frozen probably hoping if it didn’t move it would blend into the pink walls. Instead it was like a tattoo.
            I needed a new approach. I got a magazine from my bedroom and one of those oversized Timberland boots of my husbands and faced the enemy. I pushed the window wide open while keeping an eye on our crafty legged friend just in case he got the urge to take off again.
            “Get it Mommy!” My daughter cried.
            I lay the magazine below the window. I threw the shoe at the spider. I ran for the door.
            “Ah!” My daughter followed me.
            “Wait,” I said gaining courage. I crept back into the room. The spider was gone although there was a spot on the wall where it had once been. But the magazine was empty too. And so was the floor and opposite wall. No spider had landed on it. Now what?
            “Did you get it?” My daughter asked from the safety of her doorway.
            Did I ever want to go to sleep?
            “Yes,” I squeaked.
            “Where is it? Show me.”
Smart kid.
            “I placed it outside the window so it could go back to its family,” I said meekly.
            I shook my head. “I did open the window so it might have crawled out.”
            “That’s not the same thing.”
            “Come on. Let me tuck you in,” I said trying to make her forget about it. No such luck.
            “I’m scared. I don’t think I can sleep in here,” she said in a tiny voice.
            I took her hand in mine. “Tonight we’ll have a sleep over in my room.”
And when we climbed into my bed and snuggled under the blanket together I wasn’t the least bit sorry the spider had gotten away after all.

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