I can’t pinpoint the moment I knew that spiders would always send a cold shiver down to the depths of my soul.
Our first year of marriage, we found a spider bigger than the size of my hand (the size of my full hand) waiting for us, chilling on our wall.
Usually my wife takes care of the spiders while I take care of the cockroaches — which isn’t that easy of a thing because in Hawaii, the cockroaches are big and they fly. Towards your face. But this arrangement worked for us.
My wife took one look at that spider and nope’d the hell outta there, real quick.
“Good luck” she whispered. I assumed those were the last words I’d ever hear. Not even an “I love you.” Just, “Good luck” as she sent me to engage in mortal combat with a beast from the dark ends of Hades.
After 30 minutes, I emerged from our living room victorious. I was soaked in sweat. How that battle unfolded is a blog post in of itself. I also learned that picking up pieces of spider embedded in carpet also fills my heart with terror. Fear makes you so irrational. The whole time, I (legitimately) feared that the spider will come to life to exact revenge. Never mind the fact that its body was in different parts of the living room. Even when I flushed the biggest chunk down the toilet — I didn’t use that toilet for weeks. You know, just in case…
Anyway, I think my boy will be able to pinpoint the day when his arachnophobia developed — at least the fear of fake spiders: November 1, 2017, AKA — his 7th birthday.
We had an awesome day celebrating him with my parents at Cheese Cake Factory (all his choice). As soon as we sat at our table, he made sure the server knew it was his birthday and that he wanted them to sing happy birthday… he knows what he wants, I suppose.
We get home, and of course N is on cloud 9. He was showered with attention all day.
He saw the box of Halloween decorations that were taken down and he peered and confusion fell on his face. “What’s that?” He asked, tentatively. I looked, it was a fake spider, about the size of my hand. (Much smaller than the beast I faced circa 2007 in Hawaii).
I took it out and said, “It’s a toy spider.”
“No…” he said as he was backing away from me.
“It’s just a toy, dude. Here, touch it.”
“No…” he repeated as he retreated into the bathroom. He peeked just his head out to take another look at the toy.
“It’s not real. It won’t hurt you. Look.” I reassured him, bouncing him up and down on the its string, where you’d hang him from.
“Buddy, it’s a toy. It’s not real. It’s fake!”
“It’s okay, look!”
Can you guess what followed? If you guessed, “Oh, Joe just put it back in the box.” Well. Hindsight 20/20, right? That’s what I should’ve done. Of course, I didn’t do that.
I gently, lightly, softly, tossed — nay — lobbed the toy spider toward him and said, “Catch.”
Catch it, he did not.
He screamed (and I mean screamed) and fled further into the bathroom.
It was at that precise moment, I realized I had screwed up.
Quoting Rick Perry: “Oops.”
I ran to him in the bathroom. The wife came rushing into the bathroom asking what happened to cause such a blood-curdling scream.
He was bawling. Bawling. Big tears. And he was trembling. I felt so bad. I mean, I felt God-awful. Like, my stomach dropped to the bathroom floor. Yet… yet…I couldn’t help find this whole thing funny, too. I was feeling awful and I was laughing. Didn’t know guilt and hilarity could be experienced all at once.
“What happened?” demanded the wife.
I told her what happened.
“YOU THREW THE SPIDER AT HIM!?!?”
“No, no. Not throw. I slightly tossed it at him.”
“What? What? What did you think was going to happen?”
You know how they say there are no such thing as stupid questions? Well, the wife just had asked me one. Well maybe not “stupid” but unnecessary…
What was I going think was going to happen? Clearly not that… otherwise I don’t think I would’ve done it.
“STOP LAUGHING! HE’S REALLY SCARED!”
“I’m not laughing!” I said, laughing.
But my boy was shook.
He wouldn’t stop crying. My wife went to get him some gummy bears to soothe him and he kept thinking that she was going to bring him that spider. He was in the bath tub, crying until he was finally able to trust that she came bearing gifts not spiders.
Poor kid. Man, I traumatized him. I’m willing to bet that this comes up when/if he goes to therapy.
My wife put him to bed, and he wouldn’t let her leave the room until he fell asleep.
The next day, when I got him up to take him to school, he cautiously came out of his room, his eyes darting all over the place, looking for that spider.
“It’s gone, buddy. We threw it away. I’m so sorry.”
(No laughing this time).
“I no like spider…”
“I know, I know…”
“You threw spider at me.”
“No, I didn’t thr — yes buddy. I’m so sorry.”
“No more. I promise.”
Now, every time there’s a toy spider, he gets really scared. I’m curious to see what happens when he sees a real spider…but not curious enough to go find a spider.
The Night of the Incident, after he fell asleep, my wife came out his room and just looked at me:
“I just can’t believe you did that. At the same time, I’m so not surprised you did.”
That… sounds about right.