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6/23/11

My Dad Kryptonite, Revealed

I still remember the day I developed my aversion to snakes. I was in Tennessee, or Kentucky or some state in that general region. My parents had taken us on a God-forsaken trip to the South to see such attractions as Dollywood (yes, that would be an amusement park started by Dolly Parton) and stay in a cabin in the woods. That particular day, we were hiking up a mountain, when we stumbled across a large crowd stalled at one point on the path. There was a large rattlesnake coiled up in the middle of the trail, and everyone was frozen as the reptile shook its tail in warning.

Now, while this creature didn't bite me or anyone else in the group, it was still a moment that resonates with me today. As a kid, seeing a single animal put the brakes on a group of 20+ adults is a pretty significant sight. Clearly, they were afraid of this thing, so why shouldn't I be?

To this day, I still hate snakes. My encounters with them have been few and far between, but I still am repulsed at the idea of coming across one. Strangely, this fear doesn't translate to other 'creepy crawlies', so to speak. I take no issue with bugs or spiders (in fact, you can ask some of my old college friends about the day I ate a live spider after snatching it  mid-air), and even the small lizards that bound around my parents yard instill more fascination than fear inside of me.

My aversion was brought back full force the other day when I received a picture message from Amanda that showed a dead snake she found a mere 50 yards or so from our apartment. Oh crap. Just looking at a picture on my phone raised my heart rate and caused a string of curses to run through my mind. What if there were more? Is there a nest I need to set fire to? What if they sneak their way into the sewer system and bite my ass while I'm on the toilet?

The picture message that immediately weakened my powers.

This overly dramatic fear of snakes presents one big problem for me, though: I'm a dad. I'm not supposed to be afraid of anything.

All of us dads recognize the fact that, to our kids, we are veritable Supermen. We are there to protect, serve, and show courage in all perilous and scary situations. So what am I supposed to do if I'm ever with me daughter and happen to stumble across a snake? Well, I'll admit. I'm still going to act like a little pansy. Because snakes are my "Dad Kryptonite". And we all have our "Dad Kryptonite", that one major thing (or in some cases, many little things) that make us immediately drop our tough guy facade and show our weakness. I know I'm not alone. I took to Twitter in order to receive some support, and learned I'm not the only one. Other Dads noted their own forms of Kryptonite, including tornadoes and bugs.

As a comic book dweeb, I'm very much in tune to the fact that even the most powerful heroes and villains have their weaknesses. Heck, incarnations of the Green Lantern have had weaknesses to wood and the color yellow (a fear of snakes doesn't look so stupid now, huh?). As much as I never want to crack in front of my daughter, I know it's going to happen at some point. And since I know it's coming, all I can do is plan for it, and do my best to turn it into a teaching opportunity.

After all, fear is a funny thing. We aren't born with it. Hell, Ava has proven time and time again, through her daredevil climbing and diving escapades, that she came out of the womb with no fear or trepidation whatsoever. But as she's grown older, she's developed fears of her own, and lately I've been trying to help her overcome them. But as many times as I might tell her the vacuum cleaner is "nice" and give it kisses, or touch the doorstopper to show her that it's not going to pull my arms off, those fears still linger. They may be around for a long time, and that's okay. Being afraid of things is normal, regardless of how silly or meaningless other people might think it is. If, in 20 years, she still has a fear of doorstoppers, then so be it. She may earn herself a spot on some TLC reality show, but I won't judge her.

Dads, we may not want them to, but our kids will ultimately benefit from learning about our Dad Kryptonite. They need to know that even the toughest of heroes have things that they are afraid of and make their defenses come crashing down. While my daughter will be exposed to the 'human' side of my character, I know my powers of (almost) fearlessness, courage and super strength will remain intact. She'll just know to never dangle a snake in front of my face, or the consequences will be dire. And of course by dire, I mean I'll produce a deafening, high-pitched shriek and run for my life. Hey, but maybe then I can add super speed to my list of powers?

Chime in below, Dads; what is YOUR Dad Kryptonite?

4 comments:

You like comics too? We're one in the same lol. Except you went to college. I didn't. You're kissing the vacuum? ;) My son loves door stoppers. We'll sit and play with them for like 5 minutes, and he'll hit it, and laugh, and I'll do the same. It's good times. My fears are something I can't control. Which is the weather. Like I've said. Tornadoes especially. Always have and always will be afraid of them. Another great write up man.

At this point, who knows how many inanimate objects I've kissed; for my daughter, all pride goes out the window! As for the doorstoppers, that one escapes me. I think her fear has something to do with the noise it makes when it's hit, but even then it's pretty strange..

I used to be squeamish around bugs. Taking macro photos of insects wound up curing me of that as I became more fascinated than scared of the multi-legged creatures.

My dad Kryptonite, however, is illnesses. Specifically fevers or choking. Our oldest son had a febrile seizure and stopped breathing when he was 11 months. Our youngest has had 5. During one, he stopped breathing and topped his brother by not starting up again. The sight of him grey and lifeless with my mother in law doing rescue breaths is still horrifying. During another, we mistook his seizure for choking.

I think the worst part of these incidents is that I feel completely helpless. If my kid scrapes his leg I can clean it off. If they are bleeding I can apply pressure and/or put on a band-aid. If they're sad I can act goofy and cheer them up or talk with them to help solve their problem. If they're lying lifeless on the bed and the ambulance is on its way, I have nothing to do. I can't make the situation any better. Feeling completely useless when my child so obviously needs some help makes me feel as weak as Superman surrounded by a ton of Kryptonite.

Sadly, the boys have recognized my Kryptonite and have mimicked the symptoms that set me off. I lose all sense of reason and then they laugh at how panicked dad gets. (I still think I'm justified to panic after those seizure images got burned into my memory.)

@TechyDad, I am very sorry to hear about the seizures with your sons; my sister used to have occasional seizures triggered by a previous brain injury and I know that they are an incredibly scary thing to witness! And while your boys tease you now, they'll be grateful for your panicking later in life..and by that time, maybe you'll have figured out a good way to get them back for teasing you now! :)

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