Face your fear

Reality shows capture our horrified attention with detestable tubs of creepy, icky, slimy creatures that crawl over the contestant with feathery whiskers or legs or which must be eaten. That innate fear of disgusting critters begins in our earliest years. My husband assumes it is his job to teach others to face a few of those fears.
The things I have done as a parent in response to the children’s fear factor astound me. Years ago my husband brought home a crayfish he had found. He wanted to show it to the children. Our 8-year-old son refused to pick-up the little monster. I empathized with him. The more the child resisted, the more my husband insisted he get up close enough to realize it only looked awful. I decided to show him it could be done. For the first time in my life, I touched the type of critter I had quietly, but avidly, avoided throughout my life. It didn’t feel creepy, just crusty hard.
My husband lives the “No Fear” slogan – especially when he is traveling. He insists on trying new foods like buffalo burgers in Montana. As far as we could tell, they looked like hamburgers, tasted like hamburgers and so may as well have been over-priced hamburgers. In the desert, we came across an Indian pow-wow and tried Indian fry bread and burnt corn soup. I’ll skip the soup next time. In Louisiana, just because he had never had any before, my husband stopped and ordered deep-fried alligator nuggets at a local cafe.
After two or three visits to Asian Indian restaurants, my palate still does not appreciate the seasonings.
Thanks to my husband’s venturesome nature, our children have climbed mountains and caught glimpses of moose, battled the surf and discovered jelly fish and been up-close and personal with desert flora and fauna.
I don’t think my daughter ever knew the fear factor. She petted catalpa worms bald, wanted to sleep with the baby opossum we found and has relished scary things from toddlerhood. At 3 she hid behind me at her first glimpse of a graphic Halloween exhibit in a grocery store. I quickly shuttled her away. She begged to go back for a second – and a third look. I refused to go back a fourth time. I had shopping to do.
Her 6-year-old nephew takes after her. He rated recent birthday parties by presence of creepy creatures. “I went to two birthday parties. One was fun, one wasn’t. At the fun party I saw two real alligators and three real snakes. They also had sugar gliders and a hedgehog,” he reported in an e-mail.
He may have liked the snakes but the fifth grader on a school field trip verged on hysterics at the forest ranger’s invitation for the children pet his snake. To show the child her fear was unwarranted, for the first – and last – time, I stroked the snake’s middle with my finger. It felt like satin ribbon.
I am not interested finding out if all snakes feel like ribbon.
The Hershberger “Face Your Fear” tradition continues. One daughter-in-love took a fun approach and held a kids “Fear Factor” party with gummy worms in dirt cups made of pudding and cookies and a variety of games. As her daughter said in an e-mail, “I thought it was AWESOME! My mom did a great job planning it out.” Another daughter-in-love summed up the family philosophy recently, “She knew better than to protest.” A loud protest and shuffle away from anything creepy when a Hershberger is around insures that the protester will be enticed to move in closer until they become comfortable with all that freaks them out. Don’t write and tell me how horrible we are … we are just preparing them to earn a few bucks on a future reality show.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times.)