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While rummaging thought some old crates, doing some spring cleaning, I happened across some “Pre-Wedwand” essays I had penned some twenty years ago. Like a camel using the hump to store food, I thought it would be fun to share what was saved.

Back then, my oldest daughter was a toddler and I found a series of stories themed “Toddler Trepidations.” (I have kept them intact, but will footnote changes when appropriate.) Here’s the first installment:

TODDLER TREPIDATIONS — INSECTS

April marks the coming of spring and with it warmer weather. Ah, spring, robins chirping, flowers blooming, and, I almost forgot, bugs. Insects or the relative lack of them outdoors is one of the good things about winter.

I, like many men across America, am the “Official Bug Killer” of the household. I am not particularly fond of the title nor do I especially relish the duties that come with it.

This honor was more or less bestowed on me by my spouse and my continued status as OBK is periodically reaffirmed when I hear my wife call my name in a firm but somewhat unsteady voice. One word. Simply my first name. Loud enough so that I can here it where ever I am at that time.

This is immediately followed by a frantic, “Come here” (pronounce the HERE with a slightly higher inflection.) I have deduced that another spider sighting has been made and the OBK is being called to the rescue.

We cannot officially announce that a bug or spider has actually been spotted or our three year old daughter will simply freak out. At the given “come here” signal in that frantic voice, I grab a handy weapon (usually a rolled up newspaper) and tell our girl I have some reading to catch up on in the other room.

Sometimes that works. Sometimes she follows and having spotted the spider will frantically cry out herself and shriek as she points to the spot where the soon to be squashed bug lurks. After the carnage, I am often asked to show the poor insect’s remains to my daughter as proof that it has passed into that great spider web in the sky.

It was in the spring of 1994. My eldest daughter was nearly three when we found she had a slight apprehension when it came to bugs. OK, more accurately, it verged on downright paranoia.

As a rule, you try and quell most of your child’s fears, but it is tough to tell your daughter, “Bugs are OK honey. Oh look, there’s a mosquito about to suck the blood out of your arm. Isn’t he cute? But dear, it could be worse. In some countries, this bug could be spreading a disease he picked up in a swamp somewhere but as far as we know that doesn’t happen here.” (1)

One day, we were bike riding. Well, she was riding her tricycle and I was walking beside her. We had gone about a block on this lovely Spring Sunday when she suddenly stopped, trembled mildly and pointed.

When I asked the source of her fear, she simply continued to point in front of her saying, “There daddy.”

She quickly dismounted her trike, and ran to me, arms extended as if to save her from the pit o bugs.

Cautiously, I looked to where she pointed expecting to see a swirling mass of insects, but instead, a good ten feet in front of her was a single solitary ant crawling along the concrete. TEN FEET AWAY.

I quickly squashed him hoping it would alleviate her fears, but nothing doing. Bike riding for the day was over and done as was any further outdoor activity. Teary eyed, I carried the tricycle and her home for the afternoon.

Now if she stops bike riding, you know this is a serious fear for her but one day this will pass, I am sure. (2) But then again, as I think of my wife’s shaky voice, maybe not.

FOOTNOTES:

(1) At the time I wrote this twenty years ago, the West Nile Virus was not a concern in the Chicagoland area. Indeed research reveals the first case in the Western Hemisphere was in 1999.

(2) It has not passed. I just questioned my daughter, now 22 and found out just the other day, she made her friend eradicate a spider in their room, with a rolled up newspaper no less. Yep, she asked to see the remains as proof.

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