May 18, 2006

Itsy-bitsy spider

Itsy-Bitsy spiderI was out on my veranda, watering plants, when a Daddy-long-legs spider scurried out from behind a flowerpot. "Go", I implored, "Save yourself" and watched it scamper down a drainpipe. I like spiders, in a healthy way; I mean, I don't collect them or keep them as pets. I'm not afraid of them or bothered that they exist; and I can't help but admire the intricate work of nature's needleworker in the form of a cobweb.

Not the same with Daughter#1. Big arachnophobic. And I don't understand how she acquired this phobia. One of the few English songs I sang to her as a toddler was "Itsy-Bitsy Spider". She loved the song and did all the cute hand gestures that accompany the lyrics and would blithely show off to Daddy or any other innocent by-stander her rendition. At some point in her childhood, however, she suddenly refused to hear of spiders or webs or anything spidery. She thought I was teasing her when I confessed that my favourite superhero is Spiderman. Could happen, you know. Genetically tampered and enhanced spider bites boy and transmits spider characteristics. Gooey web stuff spurts out of wrists, climb up walls and humongous water spouts... but I digress.

In short, she's scared silly of arachnids. Harry Potter book and film #3 turned into a nightmare for her when Aragog the whopping Forbidden Forest spider threatened to kill Harry and Ron. And don't even get me started on J.R.R. Tolkien's Shelob. Daughter#1 closed her eyes in the theatre, cringed and braced herself. A kid who walked, talked and breathed Tolkien tore her eyes from the movie screen. I was officially convinced that "SHE DOESN'T LIKE SPIDERS" (her exact words and tone). OK honey, try hyperventilating.

Occasionally, my offspring will scream in her room, jump on the bed and mutter incoherent phrases. We rush to see what's wrong. Her eyes popping wide and shaking a finger in the direction of the eight-legged fiend that has invaded the gothic segment of our household. We pretend to kill the spider and big gasps of relief are emitted on her part. And then she starts carefully inspecting her room for remnants of the invader, webs.

For some bizarre reason all spiders that have ever entered our home seem to go directly to Daughter#1's bedroom, as if they have a calling, a death wish. Spiders must be fascinated by Daughter#1's bedroom décor or the magnetic field under her part of the house particularly appealing. Either way, those spiders are about to get the daylights scared out of them once Daughter#1 is alerted of their presence. Some spiders play dead or act nonchalant, as if they're waiting for a bus; others try frantic scurrying to escape the broom chasing them.

Last weekend, Daughter#1 was cleaning her bedroom. (Parent tip: If you have an arachnophobic teenager lying around the house tell them that spiders love dust and dust-bunnies. They will sweep, shine and lick clean their designated sleep area). I heard a small scream closely followed by the muttered sound of the vacuum cleaner. Then silence. In a matter of seconds, a hideous laugh came from behind Daughter#1’s bedroom door. She emerged cleaner in hand and a smug glow of self-complacency.

Spiders be warned. Daughter#1 has just discovered new weaponry. You are now being sucked into the chaotic depths of our vacuum cleaner's dust bag. Save yourselves!