I’m a mean mom. Maybe it stems from our family motto “Nobody ever said life would be easy.” Maybe I’m just trying to raise kids with a little spine, a little spice, and a lot of gumption. Who knows? But I have a very low tolerance for hysterics and drama. “Sympathetic” is not a word that is usually used to describe me. I get along with people better when I can understand what makes them tick. I can relate to them more when I see where their reactions stem from. Which is why I would have been very thankful to have been given an instructions manual when my middle child arrived.
The first child, I “get” him, he’s a boy version of me. The youngest child, she’s a girl version of Josh. The middle child is a mystery. My middle child also has a phobia that I did not even know existed until a few years ago. My daughter is deathly afraid of… butterflies. It’s almost too embarrassing to say.
I am well acquainted with phobias, though. My mom has acrophobia (fear of heights), aerophobia (flying), agoraphobia (open spaces or crowds), arachnophobia (spiders), claustrophobia (confined spaces)and that’s only up to the letter C in the list of phobias.
My husband is terrified of spiders. I do the spider killing in my house. Then I implement a very cruel tactic to try to cure Josh of his fear of spiders. It was taught to me by my father who used it on me and my sister, if not with great success at least with great amusement: I chase Josh around the house with the Kleenex that I used to kill the spider. The treatment ends when I can’t run anymore because I’ve used up all my air laughing. It hasn’t worked to cure him yet, but I keep trying.
I have a few phobias myself. I have a fear of heights and the flip side of that one, a fear of deep water, which is just another form of heights. I cried on the top of the Eiffel Tower, not because the sight was so beautiful but because my dad, employing a version of his scare therapy, screamed “RAAARRR!” in the elevator on the way up. I burst into tears. I’m also claustrophobic. This phobia was aggravated by too much tickling when I was a kid. My dad used to hold us down and tickle us until we laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe! I hate being tickled now. I have insisted that he let my kids breathe when he tickles them or else they might develop claustrophobia too.
When you don’t suffer from a particular phobia they can be hard to understand and can even seem highly amusing to you. For example, I know a guy who is terrified of dead birds. I don’t “get” it, but I think it’s really funny to see a grown man get the willies over a bird carcass. So it was with this same lack of sympathy that I discovered that my daughter is so terrified of butterflies. I don’t “get” it. And since we live in the country with the most species of butterflies in the entire world, this is a problem.
I have forced my daughter into countless butterfly houses with the intention of showing her that they are harmless and beautiful creatures. It has about the same effect as me chasing Josh around with a dead spider in a Kleenex. She just cries and screams when one flaps her way. Once she saw one land on her Dad’s back and she about fainted! I wasn’t trying to be a Mean Mom, I just didn’t know it was a real phobia until recently. I thought she was being dramatic. I thought she would get tired of this act and just drop it. But no. She’s 10 years old and still hates butterflies. I don’t “get” it, but now that I know it’s a real phobia I don’t force her to face her fears anymore.
So do you have any strange phobias?