By: Ruth powell
The other week I dropped both my children at school and upon returning home saw that my son had left the back door wide open (again). As I turn around I see a flutter of wings and realise we have a rather nice sized bird in our house. As I am about to deal with this, a gust of wind comes through and knocks a container off the children’s table and a large grass hopper jumps out. Why am I not surprised? Let’s face it, it could have been worse – it was only the week before that my son came in with a container of water with mosquito larvae in it, and this wasn’t the first time we had watched mosquitoes grow and fly away. So I firmly said, “Outside with them”, only to be told so enthusiastically that these ones will take “AGES” to fully grow as they are only toddlers and the last ones were teenagers. “I promise Mum”, he said. The whole story really began however a few years earlier when…
Prior to having children, our neighbour told us that he had actually heard me scream from inside his house when I saw the largest Wolf spider I have ever seen in sitting outside our bedroom door. So after having my first child, I became more aware of my own fears regarding certain insects and the need/want not to pass this fear on to my children. My mother tells us of how my Dad would hide behind her if they came across a large spider, so that’s where I got it… thanks Dad. I also cannot forget the stories you hear of children burning bugs with the magnifying glass or pulling wings off. This didn’t appeal so when my son came along I had a plan. I spoke lovingly of all the little creatures that wanted to visit us and I enforced they had to live in the garden. Soon my son was helping Dad to catch and move any large beasts outside – with a gentle reminder from me to take them far, far away. So far so good. Jump forward a few years and.
Upon arriving in Hawaii nearly 22 months ago to live with my husband and two children, four and seven, I noticed that people not only thought of Australia as ‘the Outback’ (not helped by a chain restaurant being called this) with kangaroos and koalas on every corner but more importantly as the place renowned for the large number of deadly beasts, namely snakes and spiders (the Americans have way too many documentary channels). Snakes and dangerous/large spiders are non existent in Hawaii. So I began to realise that I had swapped the snakes and scary spiders, namely the Huntsman AKA “Sally Spider” ( an attempt on my part years ago to make them seem less intimidating) for large snails, lots of ants, an abundance of geckos and the dreaded occasional large centipede (which I think could rival the Sally Spider). Overall I was happy with the swap and overjoyed that I would not see a Sally spider for the next two years until one day 10 months later when
The children both run upstairs in the early hours of the morning to wake me with, “Mum there is a huge spider downstairs”. I said I would get up and look in a minute and lay there contently thinking to myself – we don’t get big spiders in Hawaii! Besides it was only a couple of nights ago a group of Australians were also talking and confirming this very fact. Yet two minutes later they bolt upstairs again. “No mum, really, it’s HUGE”. “How huge?” My sons arms opened up…hmmmm, anything that big I am sure would have eaten them by now, but perhaps I had better look. Sure enough there it was, what I could only describe as a ‘Sally Spider’… how could this be? so with my usual calm demeanor around bugs, slugs and creepy crawlies going completely out the window I had no choice (in my opinion anyway) but to empty the usually never used fly spray can on it and bravely convince my son to vacuum it up for me as I hid behind him (my mother would have been ashamed and my dad sympathetic).
After ‘Googling’ we learnt the spider in our house was a ‘Cane Spider’ and, from the reaction of the people on the web site in Hawaii, it is the scariest, most horrifying thing ever (great!! all Americans have just reinforced my phobia) but it doesn’t appear to be often sighted (phew!). It happens we have only seen one other since (outside). Little did the BIG spider know that all it had to do was quickly go to the highest point of our ceiling, where we would have had no chance at catching or spraying it and call down, “Pack your bags Powell family, I want you out.” I am glad to report, however, that despite having a temporary affect on my daughter’s reaction to spiders, they are both still obsessed and loving towards insects and have very little fear of anything. I also redeemed myself a little by having a very small pet spider “Dasher” we allow to reside in our house. It wasn’t long before I began to wonder if I had gone too far in the whole “Love thy insect theory”…
So, the ants went marching hundreds by hundreds through my house. If I even looked like I was going to kill or vacuum these ‘guests’ I was quickly reminded about caring for all living things. Bugger. This makes dealing with a very large family of ants very hard, particularly with my daughter referring to them all as “Princess ants” who had come to visit her (they did eventually leave with some quiet persuading from me). When they left, in their place came the giants of the ant world, local bull ants. Think of the cartoon movie ‘Ants’ and that’s them. Thankfully they travel in smaller family groups but like to congregate and travel along the edge of the ceiling. So enough was enough one morning when I got up only to find another few family groups I went and got that vacuum out, turned it on and grabbed a chair only to be stopped in mid endeavour with “No mummy they are the friends of the Princess Ants!” . Of course they are, I knew that! With this I backed away from the vacuum cleaner and chair, until after school drop off.
Let’s not forget the Honey Bees and Geckos. The other day the children excitedly took me outside to see a true Queen Bee (meaning the largest I have ever seen). And the occasional large black blobs that fly past quickly are Carpenter bees my son informed me and they are amazing. My son walked past one the other day in the city (bug catcher in hand) and said to me, “I want to catch one of those Mum, I’m not kidding!” Oh, I know he’s not kidding. I was there the few times he proudly came in and showed me the dozen ‘honey bees’ buzzing around in his bug catcher. More and more I am seeing the resemblances of the ‘star’ insects of the Disney movies. Speaking of movies, can someone please fire that large Gecko that has also taken up residence in our home. I eagerly watched the other night when one or two of our resident large ants walked by it. “Hang on there”, I thought as the third ant was heading straight for its mouth. Resident Gecko snaps at it, but it hits his nose instead and falls to the ground and runs off (under my foot… oops!). “What was that???” I sigh out loud but it’s OK, here comes another one and… success!!! The resident Gecko then walks away as I say out loud “You can’t be full??”, yet despite having more opportunities walking his way, he wanders off. So with that I too wander off leaving the remainder of the ants at the mercy of the resident Geckohuh!
After some pondering I realise that for some one not that keen on creepy crawlies – and thinking that I was getting a two year reprieve living in Hawaii, I am now the host to many bugs, slugs and reptile residents. However, I do feel a little more comfortable in light of my children’s enthusiasm and happy that I don’t have to deal with dismantled, tortured bugs. So on that note I will now go and check if the Gecko eggs we found at the park the other day have hatched and say goodnight to the many beetles roaming around in the bug catcher. I know that you know I’m not kidding!
Ruth Powell – Author of Choosing Child Care, A Guide to Choosing Quality Child Care.
Ruth has worked and studied in the area of early Childhood for over 20 years. Her passion for offering young children quality care led to her writing Choosing Child Care. The book is for all parents who are looking or using Child Care. www.ChoosingChildCare.com.au