Up until fairly recently, my kids would have panic attacks whenever they encountered bugs. You probably think I’m exaggerating, but a moth would throw Kaylee into hysterics -- crying, screaming, clinging to any adult within grasping distance. And Robbie followed her lead.
And yet, I still made the questionable parenting decision to take my children to the May Natural History Museum just south of town a few weeks ago.
I vaguely remember having visited this place when I was a child. My memory consists entirely of seeing a few butterflies pinned in a display case. I thought my kids could probably handle that, especially since by the beginning of this summer they could exist in the same room with a bug without totally losing their minds.
We arrived around noon on a Friday and paid our nine dollar admission fee, then walked into a room full of bugs -- ranging from “that’s kind of pretty” to “oh my god, we must flee now.” (By the way, I never want to see another giant moth -- even if it’s dead -- because they always, always make me think of this book, in which giant moths eat people’s faces. Fuck that.)
The kids were kind of intrigued, but it turns out there’s a limit to how many gigantic bugs they can see in one place before they start to whimper. Honestly, I couldn’t blame them.
How many of these can you look at before you start to hallucinate that you have bugs crawling around under your clothes? And then the kids saw a living moth (of normal Miller-type variety) flying around the room and that. was. it. They were no longer having any of this shit, and I had to concede that we’d gotten our $9 worth and it was time to go.
We made a half-hearted attempt at watching an educational video before calling it a day. However, since my kiddos don’t go anywhere without begging me to buy them a souvenir, and I couldn’t get out of this one by saying “we’ll just get something next time” because we all knew there would be no next time, they each chose something to bring home with them.
Kaylee bought a silly gag gift, and Robbie bought what has become the bane of my existence:
Robbie now keeps moths as pets. A couple days after we got this little house, Rob helped Robbie catch a moth at Target, and then Robbie proceeded to clutch it in his fist for the entire car ride home so he could put it in his bug house. He has also been known to catch a moth and then jam it in his pocket until he can get home and put it in the house -- only to find that it somehow disintegrated into random moth body parts during the journey. (It’s even better when I forget he did that and do a load of laundry, later finding moth parts in the dryer.)
The biggest problem I have with Robbie’s new acquisition is that he doesn’t generally want to catch the bugs by himself. Which means I often hear him shouting, “Mommy! There’s a moth! Help me catch it!”
So, I don’t know if you all know this about me, but I’d rather do just about anything else than catch a moth with my hands. I am 35 years old, and I still remember a time about 20 years ago when I woke up to find a moth fluttering around under the covers with me. This was somewhat traumatic. I can tone down my disgust when my kids are around because I don’t want them to share my irrational fears, but I have to draw the line somewhere.
It’s just that I’d rather pretend I’m not actually drawing a line, and that really Mommy is an incredibly incompetent bug catcher. So I get a piece of paper and hold it near the moth, telling Robbie that maybe the moth will walk onto the paper and we can dump him into the bug house. And then (surprise!), the moth flies away as soon as the paper gets near him. “Oh darn,” I say with as much sympathy as I can muster, “I don’t see him now. Maybe Daddy can help you catch him later.”
Despite my raging ineptitude, Robbie has managed to catch a series of bugs, including several moths and a roly poly that he gave to the moths as “dinner.” He also likes to have the house near him as he sleeps, which is unfortunate because he’s usually sleeping near me. And so I spend most nights sleeping with annoyed moths flapping within a couple feet of my face. Until, of course, they die from lack of food and water, and then I sleep a little more soundly.