Did you know we are only born with TWO innate fears?
The fear of falling and the fear of loud sounds.
I remember my Nan not liking spiders and getting our huge cloth mop thing to kill them when we found them in the corners of our house.
I also remember the sound of them (pitter patter) running across the masses of posters I had on my wall as a child (a famous footballer I was obsessed with!) and waking up terrified, heart pounding out of my chest at the thought of them being somewhere in the room and not being able to go to sleep again.
Apparently I’m the reason my little sister is also terrified of spiders, because I freaked out seeing one when she was really little and she now has ‘the fear’.
So imagine my joy and excitement at finding out my husband has a complete spider fascination and likes to keep them as pets...
When Arthur was just 2 months old, we planned a trip to Longleat as a family for Father’s Day but I was really poorly overnight so my hubby, being the awesome Dad that he is, took our eldest, Maggie, and newborn Arthur off to Longleat for the day to allow me time to rest.
Imagine my horror at being sent a photo on my death bed (ok I had gastroenteritis, it was not pretty), of my 3 year old child holding a huge tarantula, a smile beaming on her face.
Where it all began! That first handle was all she needed to get her hooked!
I was SO PROUD of her, and in that moment I swore I would beat my phobia of spiders and not let her live in fear of them like I have for all my life - having extreme phobias really does affect the way you live your life- in some cases, severely!
I never told Maggie about my fear, I was so happy I hadn’t been there that day as I may not have been able to hide my feelings from her, and I really do want her to grow up being fearless and strong.
Imagine then, how I felt when she asked me, aged 4, if she could have a pet tarantula for her birthday.
Surely a standard 5th birthday gift?!
First off I said, categorically, no chance… I think Daddy put the idea in her head just to wind me up.
However, as I realised just how much she absolutely adored all things creepy crawly, I just couldn’t stop imagining how excited she would be if she actually did have a spider for her birthday...
I went to the exotic pet shop to ‘have a look’ with my husband and I had to physically hide behind him and peep over his shoulder at all the spiders in their tanks...
They made me feel physically sick.
Then in one tank was a baby tarantula, and I had to admit, it did look ‘kind of’ cute…
Baby Charlotte when she arrived... She was cute, fair play!
So that was it.
Now, 3 years later, we have 5 tarantulas, 2 stick insects and 1 jumping spider… as well as, a beautifully taxidermied Mexican Red Knee that sits pride of place in a jar with his name plaque next to him, Maggie’s very first spider that sadly passed away last year as a fully grown male.
When we asked Maggie what she wanted her old pink Princess bedroom to be, as she got a bit older, you can guess what she said...
So now we have a black and white spider-themed bedroom, complete with many invertebrates, spider posters, books and more!
Maggie's own 'Dark Den' corner - where we keep all our exotic 'pets'...
I’ve since too, held many spiders and tarantulas. I faced my fear and look at me go!
In fact, before I had children I had not held ANYTHING... in fact, I was even scared of hamsters 🤣
I’ve now held snakes, hissing cockroaches, giant stick insects, rats, mice, lizards and just about anything else that is on offer- I’ve not said NO or shown fear to anything- even if inside I was shitting my pants, I’ve never let them see that.
At one of the spider shows we attended I got to hold one of the biggest species in the world 🕷
Maggie now understands that Mummy is pretty damn brave, as she wasn’t once a big fan of these creatures unlike her and Daddy…
Oh, and of course, now Arthur who is 5 (who held his first tarantula before he was 2) has his own tarantula too, and he too has seen that you can face your fears head on and manage to conquer them, as I have done.
Arthur is another spider super fan!
I wouldn’t say I’ll run up and pick up any random house spiders now but I will happily remove them with a glass (I would never have got that close before) and I won’t scream if I see them. I also can’t abide anyone killing spiders, it actually makes Maggie really upset if she hears someone has done that.
She actually split up with her ‘boyfriend’ because he told her he killed spiders... go on my girl!!!
Anyway, the clever science -
Fear is a built-in chemical reaction in our brain, designed to keep up safe and prepare our body for ‘flight or fight’.
If we tell ourselves enough that something is ‘scary’, aka a stressful stimulus, it causes that chain reaction of chemicals in the brain which then fills our body with ‘fear’ - chemicals - stress hormones that cause a racing heart, fast breathing and energised muscles.
Our body works so cleverly that once that fear is instilled, the actual process happens almost completely autonomically so we don’t even consciously decide to be scared, we have now BUILT that fear into us.
Surely if kids can do it... right?!
BUT, we can rewire our brain, so to speak.
We can retrain our minds to NOT feel fear in some cases- but we have to face it.
For me, the fear of my children growing up and being scared of something (which let’s be frank, in the long run is pretty ridiculous) that is relatively harmless (we don’t live in Australia!) was WORSE than my own personal fear of spiders.
I love my children far more than I disliked spiders.
And that’s how I did it!
At Dr Beynon's Bug Farm in Pembrokeshire - a must for all bug enthusiasts!
I didn't start by holding a tarantula... I started by being in the same room as one without screaming... and I worked up from there!
Bite- sized chunks!
Before you know it, you're ordering your own tarantula and calling it Lizzy... well if you can't beat them, join them!
Morale of the story?
Face your fears.
Facing another fear recently - trying something NEW... Yoga!
If we can conquer the issues that will least affect us, it will give us more time to be more alert when REAL danger comes.
There are A LOT of terrifying things in this world, spiders are the LEAST of our problems.
So what’s your fear?
It could be just walking into that fitness class for the first time… knowing this isn’t your comfort zone, knowing it’s not something you’re used to, knowing it’s going to be a challenge both mentally and physically.
So I challenge you this… What’s worse than not facing your fear?
Surely being the example to our children far outweighs the ‘fear’ factor of what may happen…
My fear is my children growing up and not tackling things that are out of their comfort zone.
My fear is my children growing up and believing that exercise is only a means of looking a certain way and interlinked with weight loss and calories and not health and happiness.
I love taking my kids along to class with me... and being a role model for them as they grow up.
My fear is my children creating more fears, instead of seeing them for what they really are - a challenge not yet overcome.
So I take my fears and I use them as fuel… fuel in my body to light a fire in my belly to get shit done, even when it seems effing terrifying.
I want to BE the example for my children.
I hope I’ve inspired you with this blog… and if one of your fears is spiders - you know where to come if you want a hold 😜
This blog post is dedicated to the late, great 'Charlotte', who turned out to be a boy on the end, but the name stuck. The spider that started it all 🕷🧡