Monday, May 7, 2012

Raising Children Who Aren't Afraid Despite Being a Scaredy-Cat

I grew up in the city, went to college in the city, and after getting married, bought my first house in the city.  Five years ago we moved into our current house in the suburbs with woods in the backyard and farmland all around.  I had a large learning curve about "country" life.  One night during the first month in the new house, Hubby was away at a meeting.  I heard this very strange noise outside my window and called my dad in a panic.  He just laughed at me and told me it was a frog.

Almost a real frog

A few months later I encountered the snakes.  I came home and parked my car in the garage.  I got out and went to walk into the house when I saw a GINORMOUS snake IN THE GARAGE!  I screamed bloody murder and ran into the house demanding Hubby take care of it.  The neighbor across the street was walking by and stopped to make sure I was okay.  Hubby stalked the black rat snake and dealt with it.  Thankfully, the only other snakes I've seen since that time have been garter snakes and only in the yard or in my garden, but four years later I still am very cautious when walking in my garage.

Then the mice came.  In my house.  My kids got a big kick out of hearing me scream whenever I saw one.  Hubby resisted my idea of calling an exterminator.  But after catching five mice in the basement, I put my foot down.  The exterminator stuffed a few holes with steal wool, set out poison stations and a few snap traps, and we've never seen another mouse again (and I pray it stays that way).

Last spring as I was preparing my flower bed, I poked my shovel into the dirt and the dirt squeaked!  I about jumped five feet into the air trying to get away.  I then cautiously made my way back to the garden, and using my shovel dug around to see what was making the noise.  I unearthed a bunny nest.  Five brand new baby bunnies with no fur and their eyes still closed.  My kids had a blast watching the bunnies grow into fluffy little hoppers until we relocated them far from my garden and little hands that wouldn't leave them alone.

Joy with baby bunnies

Despite my apprehension when it comes to wildlife, I have done my best to raise children who love animals and aren't afraid of them.  Last week David found the first snake of the season in the garden.  He stalked it until he could pick it up by its neck just like Hubby showed him.  He held that snake up proud as can be until I could hunt down my camera to take a picture.  The girls came running out of the house to see and touch it.

David with a garter snake

As a child, I used to cry when I found a spider or ant in my room.  I would refuse to sleep in my own room and instead would beg my big sister to let me sleep in hers.  As an adult I had to force myself to kill my own spiders without showing any fear because I didn't want my children to grow up afraid of bugs.

Lizzy playing with a mayfly

As a child, I used to run into my parents' room and sleep on their floor during a thunderstorm.  Again I forced myself to overcome that fear as an adult and have taught my kids that thunderstorms are cool.  We go out into our sunroom with three walls of windows and skylights on the ceiling and listen to the sound of the rain.  The louder the thunder the better.

I'm never going to be fearless about life the way Hubby is, but I have come a long way from where I started.  I'll probably never appreciate snakes, mice, and big black spiders, but I no longer scream like a little girl when I see them.  I only squeak.  My skin may crawl the entire time, but I bravely kill my own spiders.  I no longer jump every time I hear the house creak--and it's been a few years since I last made Hubby get out of bed to check out a noise I heard.

I entered adulthood with a whole bundle of irrational (and a few more rational) fears that parenthood has forced me to work through.  I knew that I didn't want my kids to be afraid of life the way I was (and still can be).   And the only way I knew to raise children who aren't afraid was for me to act brave until I became brave.  So far it's working.

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