I am Snake Mum
I don’t use the word “hate” very often. There’s very little in life that can cause that word to even appear in my brain…except for snakes.
I hate them. I hate everything about them; how they look, how they move, how my stomach flips inexplicably each time one appears on the TV screen. They truly are the one thing that I’m afraid of…and I have no real explanation for this fear.
Over the years, I’ve managed to talk myself around from being a big girl’s blouse who would freak out at the mere image of a snake in a book. I’m able to look at such pictures now. I can even deal with them in movies, (well, depending on their size and what they’re doing!), although I will still hide behind a cushion.
I used to cry at even the thought of entering the reptile house of Dublin Zoo, such was the ridiculous extent of my “phobia”. But my “phobia” is nonsense. It’s nothing more than a notion I have; a reaction to something that doesn’t appeal to me; that makes me feel unsafe.
Until I had Mini-me, I don’t think I really knew what fear was. After she was born, I began to understand the word. The fear that comes with being a parent is real. It is founded and justified. I became afraid of everything; of every cough, of every sniffle, of every decision we were making. Every time she gets sick, it is fear that prevails in my mind.
I remember the utter terror the first time Mini-Me slept through the night; leaping from the bed in a panic. I remember lying at night, listening to her breath, terrified for no particular reason. Now, the toddler fears are different, but they are still real. Why is she being so quiet? Does she mix at playschool? Is she frightened if I’m not there? Is that a rash? Am I over-reacting?
The fear even follows me to my dreams sometimes. Last night, I was screaming at her as she ran towards a road and I couldn’t catch up to her to stop her. Another night, I watched as she ran towards a stairwell. Thankfully, my brain usually wakes me up before I have to watch the outcome of these situations, but the palpitations of the heart and rapid breathing transcend from sleeping Mummy to the Lying-in-a-cold-sweat Mummy. So while it may have been only a dream, the fear is still real.
What is it they say? 99% of the things we worry about will never happen? Good. But that doesn’t mean that as parents, we don’t worry. It is natural. It is exhausting, but it protects our children. It allows us to see potential dangers and to avoid potential disasters.
As parents, we learn very quickly how to put on a brave face and calm voice to ensure that our little ones don’t stress or worry.
So when we visited a local zoo this week and one of the zookeepers was offering the children the chance to pet and hold a snake, my initial reaction was to take Mini-Me’s hand and walk (Ok, run…) briskly to the opposite end of the room. To me, the snake was huge and horrible. In reality, it was a small, red, very tame pet and the children were loving it.
One look from my Husband reminded me that it was me who was afraid of the snake, not our daughter. And so I put on my cherriest voice and said “Look at the lovely snake. Why doesn’t Daddy take you over to pet it?” I possibly sounded like Mary Poppins on helium, but it was a huge step. My acting skills have never been so tested as when I had to feign calm and delight while I watched her little fingers run over the surface of the creature.
The snake might as well have been wrapped around my neck. I could hardly breath. I hated every second of her experience. I hated that I was not 100% able to protect her. But, I had to stand back (waaaaaaaay back!) and let her experience something that I’ve never had the bottle to do.
I hate snakes…simple as that, but I can’t pass my ridiculous fears onto my child. If she decides she doesn’t like them either, good. We’ll have something else in common, but I won’t be the reason she doesn’t like them. She’ll have her own silly and irrational phobias to deal with in her life. And someday she’ll have real fears to deal with too, but they’ll be hers, not mine.
So when she came running back to me, face glowing with delight, I pretended to be so excited that she’d touched the lovely, pretty snake! Daddy’s face was a mixture of smugness and amusement as he watched me lie through my gritted teeth, but as we walked towards the much more loveable ducks and rabbits, the “Good Mammy” whispered in my ear made it all OK. J
So, just this once, I am Snake Mum.