“Never let them see you sweat” has been my philosophy.
So years ago when our oldest son shrank back in horror at the crawdad his father found in a ditch, I stepped up to the challenge.
“Just touch it. It won’t hurt you,” my husband urged the 8-year-old.
Not doing. He whined, refused and wiggled away from it.
I knew that reaction well. I used to feel it all the time as a child – without the sounds or actions. I knew better than to let my brothers or cousins see or hear my repulsion and fear when they returned victorious from exploring the shallows of the mossy creek bed looking for crawdads. No way would I ever let them know I abhorred their collection of creepy critters.
But as an adult, I do not always have the luxury of fear. As an adult with children, I had the onerous task of setting a good example. And this child needed to toughen up a bit. He needed to touch the crawdad.
So, cringing inwardly, I talked soothingly to him, reached out and – for the first time in my life – touched a crawdad.
It felt kind of like a fingernail … that kind that moves on long whiskery legs waving its antennae.
Not that I volunteered to pick it up and let it crawl all over my hand, but, being the grown-up, I had set the example. I had touched it and shown no fear. And seeing he was outnumbered by adults and younger siblings all contacting the crawdad – so did the squeamish child.
That’s the disadvantage with being an adult around children – you have to be a good example. So in the name of being an good example, I also actually petted a snake one time.
I didn’t say I relished the experience. And, I only touched the abominable animal as a chaperone of grade-school aged children on a field trip when one girl whimpered, cried and recoiled as the park ranger walked down the line of children towards her holding out a green garden snake for the kids to touch.
The other kids at least stretched out a tentative finger and touched it. She absolutely did not want to touch that snake. The ranger did not even offer her the snake.
But there I stood, next in line and that old “Adults Set The Example” rule dictated that I had to reach out and, for the first – and last – time I stroked a snake and discovered, to my surprise, that it felt like expensive ribbon.
Oh! So this is what I had been missing all those years. Well, I intended to go renew missing it – once the ranger got out of my face.
But, just because I adhere to the Adults Set The Example rule does not mean that I ever really quit the “I hate creepy crawly things” club.
A couple years after contacting the snake, I took the Anatomy and Physiology course mandated for science majors at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia. The weekly lab included two sessions with live animals: a couple frogs one week, a live turtle the next week.
I won’t go into the details, not out of sensitivity for my readers, but because after sitting way back and watching the preparation for the frog lab, I refused to stay and watch the other students and professor prepare the turtle for the experiment. I rationalized that as pre-med majors my fellow students needed the experience. I just wanted the credit to be certified to teach biology – I intended to only use well-preserved animals soaked in formaldehyde.
So that day, I did not step up to the plate. I walked out and waited until we needed to take lab notes. Then I returned, sat on the other side of the room, took my lab notes, wrote my report and maintained my dignity.
I don’t think I fooled anyone.