By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
Even when you listen closely, you can’t hear it – the soft buzz, buzz, buzz of the imaginary bees terrorizing our house. Because the bee problem our 3-year-old daughter, Kate, thinks we have doesn’t really exist, except in her mind. What we have is a phobia problem. A big one.
This intense fear is not uncommon for toddlers. Jack, who’s now almost 6, also went through this phase when he was 3-years-old. But it wasn’t bees that freaked him out. It was Shrek, who just happened to be promoting a new movie at the time and therefore appeared on absolutely everything, from television to toothpaste. The phobia eventually passed and Jack even learned to make friends with Shrek. I’m hoping it will be the same way for Kate.
As far as I know, there was no traumatic bee incident that triggered Kate’s fear. One day a few weeks ago, I heard her shrieking at the top of her voice while we were outside on the driveway. When I finally calmed her down enough to form words, she said through her sobbing, “The bee was getting me!”
I’m guessing something flew too close to her face, and that was enough to set her off. Ever since then, she calls any winged creature a “bee” – moths, gnats, fruit flies – anything. Any one of them can spark a terrified meltdown of monumental proportion.
One day last week a moth got trapped in our minivan – a fact I wasn’t aware of until we were traveling along at 70 miles per hour on the Interstate. When I heard the horrible screaming from the backseat, I nearly ran off the road while trying to figure out why she was howling like she’d been set on fire. When I spotted the tiny brown moth flitting against the window – desperate to escape the screaming — I knew we needed to have a serious talk about the bee thing.
Back home, we calmed down over an orange push-up treat and had a talk about the birds and the bees, minus the birds.
“Kate, you know bees won’t hurt you if you leave them alone,” I explained. “They are scared of you. You are much bigger than a bee.”
“But I don’t yike bees,” she said. “They make me scared.”
“I know, but you don’t have to be scared because you can just shoo the bee away and he will fly off,” I said, demonstrating my shoo-ing technique.
“The bee is scared of me?” she questioned.
“Yes, the bee is small and you are big. He’s scared of you,” I confirmed.
“And I am scared of him!” she insisted.
We were at an impasse.
The problem intensified over the next few days because Kate, who normally loves the outdoors and would play outside all day if allowed, wouldn’t step foot out of the house for fear a bee might be waiting to dive-bomb her.
So how do you talk someone out of an irrational fear? And how can I blame her, when I feel the exact same way about snakes? Last summer, I spotted a black snake on the edge of my flowerpot by the front door and I didn’t go back to the front steps until after the first frost. I don’t do snakes. Period. So who am I to judge?
But I knew the bee problem would put a serious damper on Kate’s spring and summer fun if we didn’t find a coping mechanism. So I improvised. I’d just bought a couple of honker horns to attach to the boys’ bicycles and Kate’s trike – the old-fashioned kind of horn with an air bulb on one end that you squeeze to make a loud honk come out the horn end. When Kate insisted she couldn’t go out to play last Saturday because of bees, Tom and I attached the horn to her tricycle and told her it would scare off the bees when she honked it. We demonstrated the honking for a few moments, and she was intrigued as she warily glanced around for her flying nemesis.
In the next minute, she took off pedaling down the driveway, honking as loud and as often as possible. She glanced back over her shoulder with a triumphant smile and said, “It works! The bees are flying away!”
I hope having the horn as a security crutch will hold her over until this phobia eases. I am wishing, however, that I’d picked something slightly less annoying than honker horns as a coping device. The next door neighbors will probably hate us by June, since it sounds like a flock of angry Canadian geese are constantly flying overhead. It’s much louder than all that imaginary buzzing.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. She’d love to hear your thoughts and advice on kids and money, so click the orange button above to comment. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.