Before I had children, I had no concept of the power of a mother’s love. Truly, it can overcome almost anything. The example I am about to give is mundane, and many of you will laugh at me, but I’ll risk your ridicule and relate it anyway.
I am not afraid of snakes, or mice, or rats, or spiders. Anything that slithers or crawls is a matter of no concern. But I have a fear of flying insects that is nothing short of pathological. It’s worse if they sting, but I have a horror of even those flying insects that don’t. My phobia is so extreme that I start in horror even when I see a photograph of a wasp or jellow-jacket. When the boys in my grammar school class found this out, they delighted in leaving the science book on my desk, open to the page with the close-up of a bee. When I read that part of 1984 where Winston Smith’s darkest fear, his dread of rats, is used to break him, I broke out in a cold sweat, knowing just how O’Brien could make me love Big Brother in a heartbeat.
Before I had kids, if there was a bee or wasp in the house, I would just trap it in a room that had a door and not open the door, or, failing that, leave the house until my husband could come home and kill it for me. I’m not kidding. But now, with my husband out of town a lot, and four little ones who have only big, cowardly me to protect them from wasps, that isn’t an option.
A couple of weeks ago we started had a wasp infestation in the house. I was killing two or three of them a day. I had cold sweat, felt like Winston with the rat cage on, but my little girls were trusting Mom to fix things, so I had no choice. I had to be like the bug-slaying soldiers in Starship Troopers instead of like Winston Smith melting down in the face of the Beast.
I lit fires in all the fireplaces, thinking they might have a nest in one of the chimneys, and possibly they did, because the enemy in the Great Wasp War retreated. Then yesterday there was another incursion, albeit a small one. And you know what? The fear wasn’t as great. I had that initial stab of panic, that sick feeling, but it wasn’t as strong as it used to be. My heart wasn’t racing quite as fast as before when I killed it, cleaned up the Raid mess, and went on with my day.
It may not sound like a big deal, but to me it was. I still don’t like flying insects, but I feel as though I’ve taken the first step toward conquering my irrational, paralyzing fear of them. And it’s motherhood that did it. Because you know what? When you’re a mom, you really only have one fear, and that fear trumps all other fears of snakes, bugs, rats, high places, whatever. I speak, of course, of the fear that something bad will happen to one of your precious children.
I am the Great Bug-Killing Mother. Hear me roar.