I used to love small, cute, baby-faced rodents. I owned a succession of hamsters as a kid: Punchy, Punchy 2, Punchy 3. And they were followed by a short line of Funkys.
These adorable little beings all passed on in pretty unfortunate ways. One was played to death by our cocker spaniel. Another got his foot pinched in his hamster wheel, which resulted in a nasty, quickly spreading infection. Then one of the Punchys had to be ‘put down’ by the vet (so my mom says) because of the lump on its neck that wasn’t a sunflower seed stash that got stuck.
So, hamster by hamster, I slowly got icked out by cuddly little critters. But what sealed the deal was a particularly disturbing dream where I had to walk across a room carpeted by live hamsters. I was trying my best not to squish them while I tiptoed by muttering “Sorry. So sorry.”
And that’s my theory on why hamsters give me the jeebies. And why I’m afraid of anything that reminds me of hamsters. Primarily mice.
I’m pretty good at avoiding encounters with these rodents, but unfortunately I find myself living on a hobby farm these days. Lucky me, I’ve never seen a mouse inside the house (thanks in part to our excellent mouser cat and mini-dachshund, who, by the way, were bred to furrow out vermin), but around the property they seem to be always scheming new ways to punk me.
Like that time I emptied out the cow feed bag into a tot bin and two live mice jumped out of it. That was funny.
I read once that it’s typical for little girls to be enchanted by creepy crawlies (I also collected snakes as a kid) but once puberty hits, repulsion kicks in. Like an instinct switch that gets flicked on to prevent new, senseless young mothers from nursing their babies while having their goth-like pets on their shoulders. You know, hygiene first.
I wouldn’t classify this mouse repulsion as a phobia by any measure, but I am noticing the decibel level on my screeches is creeping up with each episode. They like hanging out in the chickens’ egg boxes now (we call it the egg machine). But with a simple bang on the lid before cracking it open, I’ve had much luck avoiding an encounter with one. My nerves are grateful and my black hairs are still outnumbering the greys.
I’m reframing this fear as a gift of being in touch with my mother’s intuition in a really practical (although admittedly drama queen at times) way. The mothering instinct is our friend. Mice – not so much. But I’ll stay away from them if they stay away from me and my babies, and we’ll live happily side by side, with loads of elbow space please, in perfect peace and harmony.
Kathy Stowell lives in the Kootenay mountains close to Nelson, British Columbia. She helps mamas simplify their lives then cram that newly discovered time and space with as much bliss as you can shake a mouse at. You can sign up for her free ten-day ecourse, Ten Days from Crummy to Yummy, Mummy on her site.
Krystle: Thanks Kathy, and I hope the beady-eyed little rodents steer clear of you. I managed to skip the “enchanted” stage of liking creep crawlies. Especially anything with eight legs. Eek!
Fear Confessions is a series of essays by creatives who share personal stories about facing their fears. It’s a celebration of vulnerability.