Snakes, heights, deep water, spiders, immunizations and IVs, ghosts, power outages, dog fights… The list can go on and on and it does. I’m afraid of a lot of things.
People think that because I used to ride freight trains and that I just recently learned to chop firewood that I’m edgy, brave, bad-ass. They have me all wrong.
Even my husband said, “I admire you so much because you did all these wild things that no one else I know would have had the guts to do.”
I had to set him straight, “No,” I told him, “I was always the scared one, always the one saying, ‘Is this really a good idea?'” Sometimes all my friends would ditch me to do something crazy, or I would just hang back, pretending to be a lookout for everyone else who was participating in whatever sketchy endeavor of the moment.
Fast forward ten years. A lot has changed.
Other than learning to chop firewood, my life is pretty boring. And I like it that way. I’m a teacher, a mother, a wife, and a homeowner. I am even less enthusiastic about adventure and danger than I was when I was younger. Besides, I have a lot to lose and I actually enjoy being boring and safe. But maybe I’ve become, a little too cautious because I notice that it’s rubbing off on my son.
This past winter, several well-intentioned adults kept suggesting that we put Wolfy on skis and send him down little hills. Others suggested we put him in tiny hockey skates because he’d have so much fun out on the ice. They all justified their idea in the same way, “At this age, they’re fearless.”
But my son isn’t fearless. He is actually incredibly cautious.
He is so cautious that all winter he refused to walk off the porch because, “It might be icy.” At the beginning of the winter, he had ventured off a few times and fallen pretty hard, so the little guy wasn’t taking any chances. Strapping skis or ice skates to his feet and wishing him the best would have been some form of toddler torture. Other two-year-old children are probably fearless, but this experience would have traumatized my son.
So today when it looked like our cat was innocently playing in the driveway and Wolfy wanted to go see her, I said, “Sure.” We walked over together and she was in the middle of killing a snake. A godforsaken-insert-a-million-swear-words-here snake.
I hate snakes. They terrify me. But where we live snakes are not poisonous or harmful in any way, so this fear is completely irrational. Even if a snake in our area was close enough to bite you, it wouldn’t be able to break the skin. The snake in our driveway, which I was backing away from in terror, was probably seven inches long. A baby. And it was wounded.
I was scared of a wounded baby snake.
“Hey, Wolfy. That’s a snake,” I said. I was hoping he would be scared too, that we could cling to each other in fear and maybe lock ourselves safely away in the house for the rest of the day.
No such luck. He was interested in the snake. Why wouldn’t he be curious? He’d seen pictures in books but never one in real life.
He started inching closer to it. I wanted to pull him back. I might have even reached out and grabbed his arm to do it, but then I realized that this isn’t what I want to teach my little boy. I don’t want him to be saddled by irrational fears just because it makes me more comfortable.
I thought to myself, ‘I’m just going to pretend this is totally okay.’ Then we slowly inched closer to the snake. We stood there together, talking about the snake’s colors and its behavior.
There are plenty of scary things in the world; there is plenty of real danger. But I am Wolfy’s mother and for my son, I can pretend to be brave once in a while. When I’m alone though, I’ll run away and hide from wounded baby snakes all I want.