When Logan was 4 years old, Trey and I took him to see one of the Ice Age movies at the local drive in theater. We brought snacks and blankets and snuggled up for a great family experience. Even at 4, Logan hadn’t seen many movies. I’m one of “those” moms that limits electronic time. In fact, he’d only seen a handful of television shows. Trey and I were certain the drive in experience would be a family memory like none other. And, it was but not as expected. Logan loved the various characters/creatures in the movie. There is a large rodent-type thing, a mammoth, and a saber-toothed tiger. However, when the small squirrel came on screen chasing an elusive acorn, Logan began to scream. The scream wasn’t glee or surprise but pure terror. He then began to yell “No, Squirrel! No, Squirrel!” as he buried his face in Trey’s armpit. The squirrel scene ended and his terror subsided. He resumed interest in the other characters until that darn squirrel came back. Again, terror! We ended up leaving the drive in, shaking our heads at our little rough & tumble boy who was terrified of a cartoon squirrel. (Update: Logan is no longer afraid of the Ice Age movies or of squirrels. He loves this story and has identified it as an example of ability to overcome adversity. He lives a charmed life.)
In my career as a therapist, I’ve been witness to many fears. Fear of being abused (again), fear of clowns, fear of fire, fear of being abandoned, etc. For each person these fears are real. As a society, we tease about these fears. In fact, I almost consider it a right of passage to identify a fear. A coworker has the neatest “pop up phobia book.” Each page details a different common phobia with fabulous “pop ups” illustrating the fear. For example, a masked dentist reaches towards the reader with a drill in hand on the page about the fear of dentists (odontophobia or dentophobia). This permeates into our media too. Indiana Jones was afraid of snakes (ophidriophobia), Doc Martin is afraid of blood (hemophobia). Captain Hook was afraid of crocodiles (herpetophobia) and later this transitioned to a fear of ticking clocks (chronomentrophobia). Monk was afraid of anything and everything! And how many movies or television shows have played on the common fear of clowns (coulrophobia)?
I’m a scaredy cat. I am anxious and worried much of the time. My brain operates in “what if’s.” Trey sometimes calls me “Chicken Little” when the “what if’s” begin to run away with me. I’ve always had a “touch of the worries” but admit that as I’ve gotten older, accepted more responsibilities for my life, and haven fallen in love with my offspring, the “what if’s” have increased two-fold. I will resist the urge to give my boys a complete complex by telling them that they are my fatal flaw. I am afraid when I can’t lay eyes on the boys, afraid they might choke on a big bite of food, and afraid of broken bones, partly because I know I’ will pass out cold if I see a crooked arm or, God forbid, a protruding bone. In fact, I’m feeling slightly dizzy just writing this and need a break…
I constantly find myself precariously walking the line between being the helicopter parent and being the absent-minded parent. I’m a neurotic mash up who forbids running with sticks but encourages use of real knives to help prepare meals. I make my kids wear bicycle helmets on tricycles but urge Logan to climb even higher in the tree. It just doesn’t make sense and I realize this incongruence. I want my kids to be healthy, happy, kind, and not afraid to engage with the world.
Although I have many insecurities (my lack of coordination) and minor anxieties (sweaty clowns), I only have one true fear. Those who follow my Facebook feed might notice that periodically my “beloved family” or “dearest friends” (quotations intended) will post pictures or articles exploiting their knowledge of my fear. Yes, I am terrified of slugs (molluscophobia). (Snails are included. They are simply slugs in disguise… Like little mucus ninjas.) As I write this, shivers are traveling up my back and I would appear to any onlooker to have Tourette Syndrome. I’m shuddering so much I can abarelyyoi typeee.I shudder in disgust and discomfort at the idea of those slimy creatures. Seriously, why must snot move? This is not an evolutionary miracle. It is gross and TERRIFYING! I don’t know where or when this fear developed but remember playing a childhood friend’s home and her putting giant Missouri slugs (not the scientific name but Springfield has seriously large and disgusting species!) on her bare legs and running after me in their backyard. I remember feeling desperate to find an excuse to go home. My Grandma always seemed to be engaged in an epic battle over her beloved Hostas with slugs and snails. I recall her putting beer in shallow dishes to attract and drown the villains (This memory is also significant as this was probably the only time my Grandmother ever had beer in her home). Mom tells stories of feeding chocolate cookies to slugs in the basement of her sorority house. This story is the #1 reason I did not attend Missouri State and pledge a sorority. True story! (shudder break…) When evaluating a person’s fears for diagnostic or treatment purposes, professional consider if the fear is causing danger, disruption, distress, or discomfort. My fear clearly doesn’t cause danger. I’m fully aware that I can outrun a slug…barely…but I’m able. My fear has caused distress, disruption, and discomfort in the following ways: (1) although I am a self-proclaimed foodie, I cannot and will not eat mushrooms. In my crazed mind, mushrooms resemble slugs and taste like I would imagine slugs to taste. I recognize that I am missing many delectable culinary treats, but I simply cannot. When Trey rolls his eyes (By the way, Trey is living proof that your eyes will NOT stick that way because he rolls his eyes at me at least 3 times a day and has done so for 17 years…well, maybe not the first year when we were completely twitterpated with one another and could see no flaws…), (2) During my last year of graduate school, I had a particularly trying day at my internship and drove home to discover a slug on my front stoop. I was paralyzed and clearly had no choice but to wait in my car for Trey to come home (ahem…an hour later) to remove the beast so I could enter my home. (3) Two years ago, my beloved book club chose to read the bestseller The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. As silly as it seems now, it seemed even more ridiculous when I began having nightmares of slugs (another shudder) crawling (is that the correct descriptor? Wouldn’t it take legs to crawl?)…lets go with “began oozing” across books I would be reading in my dreams. I had to cave into my goofy fear and not read that particular book club book.
While I have no plans to engage in desensitization therapy to address my wacky fear, I do hope that eventually I’ll become a little less neurotic OR that they will simply become extinct. It could happen? If Logan and Jack grow up with an irrational fear, I hope it’s something a little more understandable than my fear of slugs. (or my Dad’s fear of mimes…but that’s for another time.)
Jack enjoys resting his index finger in his belly button. This is his “go to” posture for wagon riding and car trips. This morning Logan noticed Jack’s finger was, once again, in his belly button. Logan then frantically announced, “Mama, that REALLY creeps me out! You know I’m scared of belly button lint. It’s just so creepy! Please make him stop messing with his belly button! I can’t even look at his fingers but it there is belly button lint on it, I’ll scream like a girl!”
Well…maybe Jack will have rational fears…