Heredity, arachnophobia, and knights
My mother’s stories were just the best, especially when she told us stories of when she was a child growing up. Most of the stories were very funny, and some were exciting or scary. One story I remember that she would tell was when she was a child and went to a camp. She woke in the morning to a gigantic spider, right at the foot of her bed. She said that she had never seen a spider so large, and she did not know whether to scream, or quickly jump out of bed; so she just stayed there, frozen in fear, rooted to the spot. I do not remember what happened next; I think perhaps one of her sisters or one of the other campers “rescued” her.
Besides hearing the previous story more than once, my older sister shared with me a dream that she claimed was recurring. She discovered two spiders (daddy-long-legs I think) and began to pester them. Then the spiders began to grow, bigger and bigger; once they were bigger than her, they started to chase her.
My own experiences with those eight-legged-often-hairy creatures started quite young as well. I was on a friend’s front porch, waiting for her to come out and play, and saw a spider climbing up the wall. Absent-mindedly, I began creeping my fingers towards it. The spider stopped, and before I could react, it turned around and raced up my arm! Another day, another front porch, I noticed a spider with something funny on its back. I touched the little ball with a stick, and suddenly there were tiny spiders crawling everywhere. It was the spider’s egg sack. I was horrified, to say the least.
As much as I tried to get over my fear of spiders as I grew, the whole “mind over matter” thing just didn’t work in regards to spiders. I see a spider, I get a “euky” feeling all over (a.k.a. the shivers) and I call the nearest knight in shining armor to rescue me.
We all know that some things are hereditary: looks, height, metabolism, etc. “It’s in the genes.” They say. Many other things are “adopted” by children, such as a mother’s mannerisms, or their father’s particular gait.
Raising my children, I have noticed that my daughter thinks a whole lot like me. I have obviously never told her how my thought processes work, yet seeing some of the things that she does, and listening to her speak, when she lets me know how she came to a particular decision or mindset, I realize, “Wow. That’s just the way that I used to think when I was young.”
Mindsets, or the way the mind operates, then, seem to be hereditary as well. Of course, my two sons (though younger so I can’t really tell for sure) don’t seem to think quite the same way as I do. On the other hand though, watching them and their natural penchant for trying to fix things and figure out the way they work—that’s their daddy to a tee.
A family friend used to joke that my siblings and I were all afraid of spiders because our mother was. Who knows? Maybe it is true.
I thought to put it to the test. Is fear hereditary, like looks and thought processes? I decided that from the time my children were very small, I would only say positive things about spiders. After all, there had to be something good about them. Let’s see, they kill mosquitoes and…they kill mosquitoes, and they kill mosquitoes. I could not quite say that they were furry and cute, but I did make every earnest attempt to be positive about spiders upon every mention, and I was sure never to cry out for a knight in shining armor when my children were around.
Nevertheless, my two older children showed every sign of the same arachnophobia that I had. I had the highest hopes of them being brave and fearless at the sight of various insects, arachnids and rodents. Yet when I saw them running for help because of an ant, I wondered if perhaps it was a hopeless cause; maybe I would have to resign myself to the fact that there was nothing I could do.
My youngest son was at the crawling stage. He crawled everywhere. He was headstrong and fearless. I happily discovered just how fearless he was the evening that I found a ladybug crawling up my pant leg. I picked it up and showed it to my three kids. The older ones kept a safe distance, but the 15-month-old poked it, grabbed it and was about to taste it as well when I came to the little insect’s rescue. We took the ladybug to the porch and set it on a plant. Back in the living room, I saw a spider, one of those little hopping ones, making its way across the floor. My kids spotted it too. The older ones made a wide berth around it, while the youngest crawled straight up to it and picked it up. He squeezed it and dropped it and picked it up again.
I came to two great conclusions:
- Fear doesn’t necessarily have to be inherited
- My son is going to be a knight in shining armor