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After reaching adulthood, I learned a surprising thing about my mother: she was afraid of spiders and snakes. Lots of people are afraid of spiders and snakes, so why did this come as a surprise?
Because when I was growing up, she never once showed that she was afraid of them. When we would see a bug or a spider or a snake, she would talk matter-of-factly about it, pointing out its interesting qualities.
“Spiders have eight legs, but insects have six.” “Snakes are good to have around the neighborhood because they eat mice.”
These were not sophisticated science lessons, but the message was clear: these are interesting creatures with an important place in nature. She taught me that even a slug is pretty if you look at it the right way.
The surprise to me as an adult was the realization that for all those years, my mother’s heart was racing every time she saw a spider or a snake.
Yet she was able to put aside her own gut response in order to convey to me a different message: no reason to fear. She knew that a lack of fear is the first step to appreciating nature. She wanted to raise children who were not afraid of anything outdoors.
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