Written by Emily
I have a complete and total irrational fear of sharks. It has gotten increasingly more ridiculous as I’ve gotten older. It is so bad that a part of me is terrified I might jump directly into a shark when I’m diving into ocean waves. I do get in the ocean, but before too long, I become paralyzed with fear at the dark shadows in the briney not-so deep. And then I have to get out. It was this stupid fear that ruined my honeymoon a tad. I simply could not snorkel very far…like where the fish were. My chest tightened, and I just couldn’t do it. It also had me clinging for dear life onto my new husband’s life jacket as we jet-skied above shadowy blue waters in the Caribbean, the guide goading my man to try to throw me off. I would have drowned from fear–really.
This summer, I think I spent the most time in the ocean, and that was because of my son. He’s old enough to want to get into the water, so this year I took him beyond where the waves crashed at his feet.
He loved it.
For his sake, I pushed my absurd fear into the recesses of my mind. I had to protect my son from my wacky concern and cultivate his love of the water (a love I had as a little girl). I will admit, it did not help that a Great White or two were found off the coast of Cape Cod only two weeks before. We were vacationing in Maryland. I kept wondering how long it would take a Great White to swim southward–probably two weeks. This is a palpable fear for me. Real. Tangible. Ridiculous. I know the stats.
Now, as a grown-up who is supposed to have it together, I fear sharks in the ocean. And, as a mother, I fear several other things that I wish I had never heard of. I want nothing more than to give my children a memorable, joyful childhood, one they can look back on with tears in their eyes and smile at the fun they had (not cringe at their neurotic mother who chased them with cleansers of all kinds). I have to give myself internal pep talks and remind myself of that ultimate goal because I have heard of the following:
- Pin Worms–I hate anything without legs. From my understanding, these little buggers can be ingested. What follows is so grotesque, it gives me nightmares. Is it ridiculous that I ask my children to dig in the dirt with gardening gloves?
- Bed Bugs–”Good Night, Sleep Tight, Watch so the Bed Bugs Won’t Bite.” Who knew, this was a real warning?! From what I’ve heard, these horrible little insects are very hard to get rid of…and they’re everywhere! And a word of advice: if you happen to be flipping through the channels one night, do not ever stop at a show called Infested. You’ll never sleep again.
- Head Lice–I have two girls, and one boy with lovely, thick blonde wavy hair. I fear sleepovers and have already planned my “it’s not a good idea” speech because of these critters. I think the sleep over is a silly invention anyway. Who is sleeping? And when it’s possible to catch this insect that feeds on our scalps and lives in our hair–let’s just agree sleepovers won’t happen.
- Naegleria–I used to swim in rivers and lakes as a child. Well, I had never heard of this deadly, parasitic amoeba. Should the extremely rare instance of this amoeba coming in contact with my children prevent them from splashing around like I did as a carefree kid? The verdict’s out. Don’t look this up if ever want your kids to swim in anything other than a pool. Seriously.
- MRSA–Now that my son is a hockey player who spends several days a week at a stinky ice rink, I fear this a little bit (and by a little bit, I mean a lot). I am on a quest to find the best way to keep his gear clean. And when we take the whole family to watch his games? There is no 5-second rule for food or the baby’s toys. Immediate washing.
Sadly, I could go on and on with this list. It was very hard to limit it to five when things like flesh-eating bacteria exist. And having looked up the name of that crazy amoeba on the internet, I discovered a few more I had never heard of before. Caution: Do not type “freshwater parasite” into your search engine if you ever want to be the same again.
I know I sound crazy. I know that. Thankfully, I know that. Although I feel it is my responsibility to keep my children safe, I know there is a balance. And I know that we need to leave the house, or we’ll all lose our minds.
In truth, I want my kids to live their lives without being nervous or unhinged about the unpredictability in life or the possibility of illness, danger, etc. I want them to take life by the horns. Live it to the fullest and all that. I wish I could be more like Lenore Skenazy, but I know myself, so I’ll just pack some wipes (you never know what’s on those horns) and maybe a parachute in their backpacks. Hopefully, that’s ok.