Monday, February 27, 2012

Mommy, There's a Spider in My Mouth! (Or, Planting a Garden with a Bug Phobic Toddler)

Last week our daughter came running into the kitchen yelling, "Mommy! I have a spider in my mouth!" She was spitting and wildly clawing at her tongue with her hands, clearly distressed. She told me she spit the spider out in the living room. I investigated and discovered it was a raisin with a little stem on it.

I had a similar encounter with a raisin as a child and didn't eat them again until adulthood. So, after I realized there wasn't a real spider, I didn't think much of it aside from noting that it will be a while before raisins are a viable snack option in our house again.

Not ten minutes after the spider incident she came running from the dining room claiming to have seen a snake. It turned out to be the roots of a potted plant on the dining room table.

At this point I started to wonder about her behavior. However, the rest of the afternoon was uneventful so I brushed it off as a bad day.

This morning while drinking the same breakfast smoothie she's had (and loved) a hundred times before, she decided the raspberry seeds were bugs. Every time she got a seed on her tongue she'd stick out her tongue and yell (as best she could with her tongue out) and flap her arms and yell for assistance.

Of course, this is the day we decided to plant our garden--the day my daughter decides everything small and dark is a bug. 

The last few days as we've been making plants and buying our starts, I had visions of us serenely working together as a family, joyfully planting our garden.

It was almost like that except for every time my daughter (who is generally up to her ears in dirt) saw an ant and started screaming and trying to climb on top of my head.

Seriously. I don't even know where to begin. She's never been afraid of anything before. Generally she's fearless.

Every now and then she would relax and help me put a plant in the ground and pat the dirt down around it. But then she'd think she saw a bug and start jumping around to get away from them, almost trampling our other plants in the process. 

In the end we got all our plants in the ground: 1 jalapeno pepper, 1 habanero pepper, 2 serrano peppers, 1 red bell pepper, 5 yellow bell peppers, 2 tomatillos, 4 eggplants, 3 okra, 2 rows of onions, a row of pinto beans, and five tomatoes (in pots).

I'm really excited about our plants. We tried really hard to pick plants that can withstand the summer heat and keep producing. I'm hoping they all cooperate. I'm dreaming of tending our garden and picking peppers with L. on sunny, warm summer mornings... 

In the meantime I'm hoping we can help L. through her new found fear of bugs quickly.

Any ideas? Aside from showing her repeatedly that everything is okay, where does one start helping a child overcome irrational fears?

I'm going to have to do some research. This is all totally new to me...

This post is part of Seasonal Celebration Sunday at Natural Mothers Network, Homestead Revival Barn Hop, and FarmGirl Friday, and the Natural Parenting Group's Monday Blog Hop.


  1. Poor girl (and mom). Did she watch something or did someone tell her about bugs? I've got no ideas but hopefully you find a good solution soon.

  2. I think you have it got just right, getting your daughter to help you in the garden is a bit of behavioural therapy and the phobic fears will pass in time, of that I am quite sure. Happy gardening Emily! Rebecca @ Natural Mothers Network x

  3. My son had a similar situation many years ago. We talked about it and I found out that an older cousin had scared him telling him that insects were all poisonous and want to bite you. I resolved this by demonstrating that this was not correct by holding some insects like pretty caterpillars and red worms. I also told him that there were important insect helpers that are responsible for our food and I showed him how they help by renting and watching a video about beneficial insects with him. Maybe my method was extreme, but my little one was so afraid that I had to do something.

    I hope your L. gets over her fear without such endeavors, but it's a really good sign that she stayed out in the garden with you and even helped some. Your plants sound great. Have a great week ahead.

    1. Thanks ladies! I think we're just going to keep spending time in the garden every day...and I'm trying to be really aware of swatting at flies and warning her about ants at the park. I'm sure my behavior has contributed. Heidi, I love the idea of getting a bug video. I'm going to check the library asap!

  4. Here's what seemed to work for us. Try not to show any bug phobic reactions in the house (well that's harder for me to do actually since I am a little bug phobic, especially when it's big bugs!). And getting a usb microscope or a computer microscope and a bug-catching kit. Our computer microscope came with a bug container, tweezers and magnifying glass. So we began catching bugs in the container and then letting the kids observe the bug up close. Really, I've found for myself and the kids is that the more familiar we are with bugs and what they do and look like, the less scary they seem. Phobias are about a fear of the unknown and I know my upbringing as a city girl living in a concrete jungle meant I hardly ever saw any bugs of the garden variety other than flies and mosquitos, so I became afraid of most bugs from a young age. The flat I grew up in though, had cockroaches and those creatures really were at the top of the list where my phobias are concerned. Now I've been living in England for so long, I have never seen a cockroach in 10 years. I shudder at the thought of seeing one, though I seem to have conquered my fear of the fat household spiders (non-poisonous ones) typical in English households, as well as flying insects. My kids, however, don't have so much of a phobia regards flying insects. Good luck!



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