Life with a Smile: Ladybugs or venomous bug-demons
By Kate Snyder
My children have developed an irrational fear of ladybugs. Well, they’re not actually ladybugs. They’re those Asian beetles that look like ladybugs but are, in fact, venomous bug-like demons from the underworld sent to devour the flesh of unsuspecting children. Or something equally horrible, if you listen to my kids.
Ordinarily, this odd aversion to a peaceable insect wouldn’t be a big deal — you do you, kiddos — but unfortunately our new house is also home to a huge number of the demon bugs. I diligently patrol my children’s bedrooms each evening, sucking up the invaders with the vacuum cleaner, but inevitably they return just after lights-out. There can be no sleeping when besieged by beetles. Constant vigilance is required, sometimes interspersed with hysterics, just for good measure.
My cheerful exhortations that this year we’re all resolving to “be brave” have had absolutely no effect on my offspring and on any given night, one or more children refuse to sleep in their (allegedly bug-infested) bedrooms.
Children’s unreasonable fears can be really frustrating because they’re hard to combat — and hard to understand. It’s clear to me that those bugs aren’t going to cause any harm, but the kids just don’t see it that way. It makes me crazy. But whenever I start feeling too grumpy about the situation, I remember that I have a history of being an irrational wimp, too. When I was a child, I would often get scared in the night and for years, my recourse was to sneak into my parents’ bedroom to sleep on their floor. I was good, too. I’d haul my pillow and blankets along with me and crawl stealthily to my mom’s side of the bed, where I’d make a little nest and conk out. If discovered, they’d take me back to bed, but most of the time I just slept there until morning.
My mother later confided that she despaired of me ever sleeping in my own room and had visions of me refusing to attend college if she didn’t come, too. But of course I did eventually outgrow the phase. The secret was getting rid of the night light. I finally realized that the shadows cast by the night light were more frightening than the darkness. The light that was meant to make me feel safe instead turned chairs into monsters and bathrobes into ominous, looming goblins. Once I turned the night light off, my room felt more secure.
My kids haven’t figured this out yet and insist on all manner of darkness-banishing paraphernalia. They have an assortment of bedside lamps, night lights, stuffed animals with built-in flashlights and — at this time of the year — small Christmas trees in their rooms. And when they still get scared, they seek me out. Luckily for all of us, I have a king-sized bed that is thoroughly underutilized when only inhabited by one mid-sized person. There’s plenty of room for a few fearful children. They sometimes fuss at me because I don’t have a night light, but I reassure them that my presence is protection enough. My love and a good strong vacuum cleaner are all we need to be safe!