While working for the zoo, my biggest pet peeve (and working at a zoo, believe me, you start a laundry list of pet peeves!) was when parents would purposefully pass on their fears and ignorance about animals to their children. I don't mean when parents would share their own opinion of an animal (although that can do enough damage), but when they would purposefully step in the way of a child's burgeoning curiosity and love of an animal and try to squelch it.
"Eww, sweetheart - step back from the snake exhibit - snakes are so scary!" "Are you SURE you want to get a yucky spider painted on your face? Wouldn't you rather have a pretty butterfly?"
I never understood it. Having phobias - ok. Trying to make your child have the same phobias - not ok.
And then, this week, I caught myself doing the same thing. While reading, "The Foot Book", I involuntarily said, "Clowns are scary," when we came to "...here come clown feet." Hubby kindly pointed out that maybe I didn't want to pass my fear of clowns onto the Nugget, but I brushed him off with the justification that every child should have a healthy fear of ledges and clowns. Not so much a phobia as a life skill, I think.
And if that weren't bad enough, we went to Old Navy (I had the combination coupon and gift card that really makes my tightwad heart swoon) and upon seeing the (FREAKY, VERY FREAKY) life-size, cartoonish, wide-eyed staring "supermodel-quins" that greeted us at the door, I recoiled in horror. I reacted without thinking, and some word vomit came up, "Ohmigosh, those are really creepy!" I glanced down to see the Nugget's eyes fill with terror, as he yanked vigorously on my hand, trying to pull us back out the door to the safety of our car. Oh, the guilt! The shame! I immediately picked him up and comforted him, walking up close to the (CREEPY, OH SO CREEPY) mannequins and showing him that they weren't real and apologized to both him and the mannequins for being scared. He gave the little girl mannequin a big kiss before we went hunting for socks.
The thing about becoming Mommy is that it is really forcing me to look at my own flaws, accept what I can't change, and do my best to improve what I can. I know I'll never be truly, naturally mellow like Hubby who can focus on the beauty of a sunset. I can admire a sunset, but while I'm looking at it, I'll also be thinking about getting back in the house to wash dishes, the color of the sunset reminds me of the yarn that's been sitting on my knitting needles for a month and needs to be finished, I need to pick up that dog poop in the yard, and boy wouldn't it be nice if I made some lemonade so we could sit here and sip it while watching the sunset? I can't turn off those thoughts but I can choose not to act on every impulse. Because when I do rush around like a caffeinated squirrel (or flee from inanimate plastic humanoids), I see the Nugget's shoulders hunch up and our collective anxiety level goes up a few notches. I can yammer all I want to him about taking time to live in the moment/eating healthy foods/getting exercise/trying new things/not taking his frustrations out on Doggie, but he won't ever learn how to do it UNLESS I SHOW HIM. Having a kid is bigger motivation for self-improvement than watching Oprah or reading a pile of self-help books.