Sometimes part of the grace of being a parent involves sincere pretending. Pretending that you can see the imaginary friend. Pretending that you've never heard that joke before. (Pretending that you think it's funny.) Pretending to eat mud pies, and sip "tea", and to be surprised by the gifts under the Christmas tree. We do this pretending to honor and preserve the wonder and discovery experienced by our children.
When my first son was a toddler I found myself compelled to pretend to be afraid of creepy crawlies. With the exception of freakishly large spiders and any insect with pincers, I am not skeeved out by bugs or worms or snakes, etc. I'm not. I'm the kind of mom who flips over rotten logs and pokes at the centipedes and salamanders right along with them. But at some point my son latched on to the notion that Girls are afraid of these things, and that Mommy is a Girl. He spent several weeks trying to spook me with small dirt-covered creatures. After noticing his crestfallen.expressions at my lack of reaction, I learned to put on a theatrical "eeek", which seemed to give him exactly the satisfaction he was seeking. I felt a twinge of dishonesty, but figured it was all for the greater good. ;) Not too hard.
But second son. Oh jeez. This week he created a hideout beneath the sofa bed and wanted me to join him inside it.
Oh good Lord.
Mommy is a claustrophobe. That's not so easy to pretend away. Faking having a fear is one thing. Convincingly faking not having a fear is another story.
However, motivated by mother-love and a whole boatload of mother-guilt (compounded by memories of my own terrified mother sucking it up in a number of brave ways), I complied.
"No, Mommy! Not just your head! Come ALL the way in!!"
I gave myself a mental pep-talk. Controlled my breathing. Reminded myself of my love for him. And army-scooted all the way under.
And had a panic attack and backed out, with rapid-fire excuses and apologies.
Sorry, kid. :(