Leta’s fear of spiders has recently grown into a full blown neurosis, and I’m afraid the entirety of her phobia is all my fault. I am the type of person who cannot remain calm when in the presence of a tiny bug and have been known to yelp, jump three feet into the air, and throw my entire body around Jon’s shoulders at the sight of a cricket. It’s an involuntary reaction, an overwhelming feeling that I’m going to die, and so it is impossible to keep my cool or provide a quality example to my child of how to act like a reasonable human being. So when she freaks out about a spider she gets nothing but sympathy from me, and where I should be comforting her that everything is going to be okay, I’m instead spraying a machine gun stream of hyperventilating syllables into the air, like YOU HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO BE FREAKED OUT BECAUSE WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE.
Every night after we turn off her light Leta asks us about spiders, are there any in her room, and are they going to get her? And one night Jon gave her a detailed explanation about how spiders don’t come out in the winter, how we have a guy come spray the house in spring to make them all go away. Except he didn’t give me the script, didn’t tell me about this explanation, and the next night when I put her to bed and she asked about the guy who sprayed the house, I was all, huh? And she was all, THE GUY! THE GUY! And I was all, what guy? And she was all, THE GUY WHO KILLS THE SPIDERS! And I just could not wrap my head around what she was getting at: a guy? Who visits the house and kills spiders? Did Jon make up a Santa Claus-like figure to ease her fear? Come to find out he was just talking about an exterminator, but because I could not get the right synapses to fire in my brain we now have a five-year-old who believes that in addition to delivering colorful eggs and candy, the Easter Bunny also walks around the house shooting insects with a tank of poison.
Before we left for our trip to California Jon pulled me aside and made me promise to hold my shit together if I encountered any bugs, and I agreed. Leta was already going to be sleeping in a new bed, and if she had any idea how many relatively exotic bugs there were lurking around every corner there was no way we’d ever be able to get her to sleep. And everything was fine up until last Wednesday night when during the bedtime ritual I saw an abomination of God slithering along the baseboard in the hallway. It had maybe 400 separate legs, and jutting out at a 90 degree angle from its head were two bulbous, alien antennae. I froze, bit my lip to muffle a scream, and tried not to think about the look of satisfaction on its face when it eventually climbed up my arm and burrowed into my skull.
Slowly I gathered myself, walked into the room where Jon was preparing Leta for bed and said, “Jon! Hi! Can I speak with you for a second? IT’S VERY IMPORTANT.” I tried to open my eyes as wide as they would go to signal IMPORTANT, IMPORTANT, IMPORTANT, but by the look on Jon’s face I could tell it was coming across as LOONEY, LOONEY, LOONEY.
He shook his head, like what? Can’t you see I’m in the middle of putting the child to bed? So I said it again, “HUSBAND. THERE IS IMPORTANT WORK FOR YOU OUTSIDE OF YOUR DUTIES HERE. COME, LET ME WHISPER ABOUT IT IN YOUR EAR.”
So he casually handed Leta the top to her pajamas and took a couple of steps toward me before I grabbed his arm so forcefully that I almost pulled him to the ground. “A BUUUUUUG!” I whispered into his ear. “THERE’S A BUUUUUUUG. A BUUUUUUUUUUUUG! AND IT WANTS TO EAT MY FAAAAAACE!”
He snapped his body around like a commander in an army, told Leta very calmly that he would be back momentarily, and headed out into the treacherous hallway. Meanwhile I did everything I could to distract Leta. I quickly shoved her shirt over her head, marched her into the bathroom, and shoved a toothbrush into her mouth. Just then we both heard a THWACK! reverberate through the entire building.
THWACK! again followed by two more… THWACK! THWACK!
“Jesus!” I heard Jon scream… THWACK! THWACK!… THWACK!
“What is that noise?” Leta asked, toothpaste dripping from the side of her mouth. And just then Jon rounded the corner, his flip-flop in his right hand, a wadded-up tissue in his left.
“Daddy?” she asked as he walked over to the toilet and dropped the tissue. “What are you doing with your shoe?”
“This?” he said, a tiny drop of sweat making its way down the side of his face. “This is called Learning To Live With You and Your Mother.”