We have had a problem with carpenter ants for years. Every fall we think we have them beat, and every spring we freak out when we see one - because you know there's NEVER just one ant!
Putting the paper recycling away last week my husband found a swarm of ants (swarm? pile? plethora?) A LOT of them... huge... black... gross ants. The kind that you can hear crunch and feel pop when you step on them - YUK!
Lo and behold, what did we find drawing the ants forth??? A partially melted freezie that my older son (DM) had sneaked as a treat, spilled and not cleaned up. My husband was at a loss, and frustrated with our son for not cleaning up (let alone not asking for a freezie); I turned all 1940's house wife - "eek! bugs" mainly because I HATE ANTS, and hurried back to the sink to finish cleaning dinner up.
Needless to say we were not thinking about our reactions to the bugs and how they might be interpreted by our kids. Now, to fully appreciate the rest of the story you must understand that our 4 year old (DX) is... sensitive (to say the least). Sensitive to ALL external stimuli - sound, texture, taste, touch, smell - it may sound cute, but as parents of a sensitive child, we never know what will "set him off".
I left my husband to poison the bugs only to find an ant that I hadn't fully squished (because I don't like the crunchy feeling when I squish them) crawling in the green bin under the sink. Before I could sensor myself I went "AHH, now their in the the garbage!" and did one of those ick-induced-shudders that indicate I am physically grossed out. At the same time my youngest was walking across the kitchen saying "Mommy I'm scared of the ants", saw me shudder and at that exact moment he stepped on a pebble.
The sheer TERROR this poor child experienced was unlike anything I have witnessed before. He thought the pebble was an ant biting his foot. He was screaming, crying, shaking. It took 20 minutes to calm him down, he wouldn't even look at the pebble or his foot for the first couple of minutes. We talked about how ants are gross but they don't bite (good god don't let an ant bite him for real); we compared the size of ants and boys; then we took a look at the dead ants Daddy killed so that he knew they weren't still "out there".
No nightmares about ants... yet.
It took a week for him to stop scanning the floors for bugs, for him to go to the bathroom standing up again (because a. you can't see what might be on the floor while you pee standing up; and b. because his feet don't touch the ground when he's sitting on the toilet). Today (a week after the "incident") he saw an ant on the stairs in our house. The same visceral reaction, just not as long. Daddy squished the ant, and DX helped flush it down the toilet.
Lesson learned: Kids are ALWAYS watching how we react to situations. BUT, how are we to prepare them for the "real world" if we're constantly censoring ourselves? As someone who has an anxiety disorder I know how real "non-real" fears can seem. What might seem ridiculous to one, is reality for another. By paying attention to my own reactions to external stimuli, I can (hopefully) show DX that things aren't as bad as they may seem - and by doing this for him, I might convince myself that it's true, after all they're just bugs...right?
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