It’s important to me that I can be a good example of rationality as a father. One of my psychological issues I feel like I need to conquer before my son can pick up on it is my fear of stinging insects and spiders. The flying members of the Hymenoptera order are especially harrowing to me for some reason. I think it’s a combination of the swooping and the buzzing and the maneuverability of the little suckers that freaks me out.
Down here, south of the Mason Dixon, these creatures seem to reach science fiction proportions. I’ve seen spider bites turn into scars that looked like the results of some ancient Egyptian curse. I’ve had nightmares of spiders that caused me to spring from the bed and whip off the covers. Explaining that to my wife was a bit embarrassing.
Before I migrated south and developed my almost-drawl, I had mostly addressed this phobia. My first summer walk through a southern garden found me regressing to: WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT THING?” Then I started flailing my arms and trampling the flowers in my mad dash toward the safety of my car. The whole time I screamed like my hair was on fire. The only thing I really learned from the experience was that a bumblebee is way more terrifying when it’s inside the car with you. And you never know it’s there until you hit the speed limit on the highway. I was like one of the hapless victims in the movie “Alien” because I could hear it, but I couldn’t see it. True fact: you can drive while manually rolling down a rear window of your car when properly terrified.
I’m getting better. Honeybees and bumblebees make my pulse quicken a little when I hear them, but once I see them I calm down. If you get between me and the house when I spot a yellow jacket or wasp, you’d better have great reflexes or health insurance.
I try to remind myself that even when I’ve been stung, it hasn’t been that bad. I’m not allergic. I’ve never been stung in the eye (but I’ve had a close call), and I’ve never been stung while driving. I’ve never been, cartoon-like, pursued by an entire angry swarm that waited patiently after I plunged into a pond to escape. Just wondering, does that work?
As a dad, it’s important that my son sees me as a source of security. What would I be teaching him if I ran screaming from every loud, flying insect? I want him to know it’s OK to feel afraid, but I also want him to differentiate between silly phobias and honestly terrifying events. Bees and wasps fall into the former category, no matter what my instincts tell me. I don’t want him to learn irrational fear from me.
I have to accept a mantle of responsibility, akin to Superman’s cape, that should be an integral part of fatherhood. Looking back, my dad inspired me to confront my fears through his own courage, integrity and determination. It’s my turn to be that kind of parent/folk hero to my son. Instead of a cape, maybe I’ll wear some mosquito netting.