My fear of heights is only slightly outweighed by my fear of snakes, so when my eight-year-old daughter asked me to chase after a guy covered in the long limbless reptiles one day at the beach, I was less than keen.
“No way,” I told her. “I’m too afraid of them.”
“Why?” she asked.
Well, I wasn’t exactly sure why. Their slithering, hissing and attacking ways just scared the heck out of me. But Daisy wasn’t the least bit afraid and wanted to see one up close. So off we went down the boardwalk searching for a guy I didn’t particularly want to meet.
It was a busy day at the beach and people were swarmed around this man and his snakes. I’m not sure how many he was holding, but he had a range of sizes coiled around his arms, neck and chest.
My daughter immediately wanted to hold one and asked if she could touch the skin of the baby snake in his hand. The man said yes and asked me if I wanted to touch it as well. I told him I was too scared and he asked me the same question Daisy had: “Why?”
“I guess I don’t want to get bit,” I said.
“Unless you smell like a rat or a rabbit or something else yummy, these snakes won’t be interested in biting you,” he said. “You’re safe, I wouldn’t have them out here if you weren’t.”
That made me feel slightly more comfortable. But it was my daughter’s fascination with them that made me curious about my long-time fear.
Since I’d never had a bad experience with them personally, I had chalked it up to an instinctual feeling that I imagined most rational human beings would also have. But clearly that wasn’t the case if my very own offspring wanted to hold them.
My dad used to say that the best way to conquer a fear was to learn more about it. When it came to snakes, he was absolutely right: the more I learned and the more time I spent around them, the less frightened I became.