Bugged! When kids and insects don't mix

Jan 29, 2010 at 2:11 p.m. ET

I was trying to finish dinner when the screaming started upstairs. It was sudden and shrill and my heart almost stopped. I managed to turn off the stove as I shouted for Sunshine, "I'm coming! Mommy's coming!"

Scared boy

The screaming continued as I ran up the stairs. I expected to see my girl hurt and I was preparing myself for anything as I hurried to her.

It was a moth.

No matter how I try to explain that she is bigger than the insect about which she is screaming, and it is far more afraid of her than she is of it (assuming, of course, that insects have emotions), she still screams. Every single time. And I come running. Every single time.


Sunshine is not the only person in the family uncomfortable around insects. One of her older brothers, who I shant name, responds almost as strongly. And I don't like them either.

Many years ago, at a wedding reception at a science center, our table was the closest to the "bug zoo." Once I realized that the branch about 15 feet behind where I was sitting seemed to be vibrating because it actually was vibrating and covered with Madagascar hissing cockroaches, I could not eat. I was uncomfortable for entire reception, even though the insects were encased in plexiglass. As happy as I was for the bride and groom, it was not a pleasant event for me. Obviously, we avoid such "zoos" at science centers now, for all our sakes.

The insects Sunshine might encounter in the house are no where near that size – and nothing like what I saw growing up in another part of the country. We took care of this house's carpenter ant problem long before she was born; I can imagine what her response would have been to that (her brother's was memorable enough). But still, insects happen, whether it's the random moth that flies in on spring and summer evenings, an innocent lady bug, or some beetle from the garden.


I admit I don't quite know what to do. I've tried talking to her about bugs when there isn't an six-legged or winged creature in sight, and she says, yes, she understands, bugs won't hurt her. But there's still a disconnect between her supposed "understanding" and the emotional response when that little moth flits into her view, and it's not at all rational. 

It's true that her brother's response is not as strong as it once was, so I suppose it's something she'll outgrow, or something like that. Like her brother – like me, really – Sunshine is going to have to learn to deal with insects in her world. Until then I guess I'll keep running when she screams.


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