I'm going to start this essay off by telling you one very important thing: I'm terrified of spiders. I know, you're rolling your eyes right now and thinking this in no way warrants an entire essay; shut up you basic b*tch, everyone is afraid of spiders. But it's more than just jumping in fear when I happen upon an eight-legged monster in the basement or calling for backup to have a spider in the bathroom destroyed.
I'm so afraid of spiders that I actively arrange my day to avoid situations where I might encounter them. My fear of spiders borders on paranoia, and it's gotten to the point where it's seriously cramping my parenting style. You wouldn't think such a common fear would impact how I'm raising my kids. But it creeps in (pun intended) in lots of little ways.
My fears aren't completely unfounded. I've always had a healthy fear of spiders and bugs, but when I was in college I was bitten by a wolf spider in my sleep. I've never gotten over the horror that a giant spider was crawling over me while I was blissfully unaware and snoring. And to make matters worse, the bite on my shoulder got horribly infected. I'll spare you the gory details, but let's just say there were venom sacs buried in my arm and if Dr. Pimple Popper was a thing back then, I could have been so famous.
When I'm with my 4 year olds and we encounter a spider in the house, my reaction isn't, "Look boys! Nature!" It's, "Get the Swiffer, the handle is long and it has a large flat surface area for maximum squishing."
Ever since then, I lose it when I see a spider. When I encounter one, I'm not trying to be a hero. My default reaction is to run. It doesn't help that I live in the Northeast, where Wood Spiders like to hang out. Small spiders and Daddy Long Legs scare me too, because I don't discriminate with my arachnophobia. But Wood Spiders are the thugs of the arachnid world. Instead of running for the crack in the floor like the rest of their relatives, those assh*les stand their ground. And, they jump.
I know I should try to set a good example for my kids and not encourage them to fear things, but I can't help my reaction. When I'm with my 4 year olds and we encounter a spider in the house, my reaction isn't, "Look boys! Nature!" It's, "Get the Swiffer, the handle is long and it has a large flat surface area for maximum squishing." Even though so far I've managed to save us all when we come across a spider, I worry my self-preservation instinct will override my parenting instincts and one day I'll simply I'll run off, leaving them to fend for themselves.
How bad is it? Once, I thought I saw a spider on the back of my shirt. Within seconds I was running and screaming through my open-windowed house completely topless. I still can't look the condo grounds crew in the eyes, because we both know they saw my boobs that day. And the worst part was that it was a false alarm — the spider was just part of a Halloween mural on the back of my shirt.
Another time, I thought I saw a giant spider lurking in a plant in the living room. It was far too big for me to try and challenge it myself, and I was alone with the kids, so I barricaded us into the bedroom for hours until my partner got home. Turns out the "spider" was actually a clot of dust, and I'm a really bad housekeeper.
When we encounter a spider (we live on the edge of the woods, so it happens more often than not), no matter how tiny the spider is, I haul the kids inside as though it's a snarling bear out there, not 2 centimeters of insect. My twin sons cry at the injustice of being ripped from their toys and I cry because I'm worried it somehow followed us into the house.
We have a back porch that's perfect for blowing bubbles or playing with the water table when it's hot outside, but the only problem is most days I can't bring myself to let the boys go out there and play because I'm too afraid we'll run into an eight-legged visitor. On the days I do get the courage to go out on the porch, I can't fully relax and enjoy the moment with the kids. Instead, I'm standing guard, peering between the slats of the porch and in corners, on the lookout for unwanted visitors. When we encounter a spider (we live on the edge of the woods, so it happens more often than not), no matter how tiny the spider is, I haul the kids inside as though it's a snarling bear out there, not 2 centimeters of insect. My twin sons cry at the injustice of being ripped from their toys and I cry because I'm worried it somehow followed us into the house.
We have a finished basement where the kids have an entire playroom to themselves, but I'm always looking for excuses to avoid going down there because I dread the thought of finding a spider lucking among their Matchbox cars. Sometimes I'll drag the vacuum down with us and sweep the corners and baseboards of the room before I let the kids come in and play so I can relax a little bit. But they complain about the delay, and I don't want them to grow up with the memory that their mom refused to let them play with their toys just because she was afraid of spiders.
I don't want to use a chemical spray in their playroom to try and keep spiders out. But I read online that chestnuts have natural oils which deter spiders. I stocked up as soon as they were in the stores this fall, and scattered them around the basement. Who knows if it's a legit remedy or if Wood Spiders just aren't around this year, but so far I haven't seen any in the basement during the few times I've been brave enough to go down there, so I'm counting it as a win.
I'm reluctant to let my boys do normal kid activities like play outside in the backyard, climb a tree, or build a "stew" out of sticks and grass (all kids do that, right?) because I worry they'll run into a spider and get bitten. And there's no way we'll ever be one of those houses with a pet tarantula. Rationally, I know spiders keep our ecosystem functioning and that humans do far more harm to them than we do to us, but I'd still happily see them all die in a fire.