David and I are always talking about “unintended” consequences. As you go through your day, you never know what seemingly meaningless act on your part will have a life altering effect on someone else. 26 years ago we bought an antebellum house in a yet-to-be up and coming area in downtown Murfreesboro. In the 1920’s, two little rooms were built on the back of the house by the back door. One of these little rooms was the perfect size for Jess’ nursery. When Matt was 7 he and David broke one of the windows in Jess’ nursery playing soccer in our back yard. This was during the time when we had just started our businesses so money was in short supply. Fixing a broken window did not come before food, water, and lights, so it didn’t get done for quite some time. Being that we were in a yet-to-be up and coming area of town, we had a security light by our backdoor. Having a light as bright as the sun by your backdoor was a good step toward keeping would-be burglars moving down the street in search of darker entryways. Unintended consequence—a light as bright as the sun attracts bugs…copious amounts of bugs swarming around it all night long.
Late one night, I thought I heard a noise coming from Jess’ room. I’m not sure about all the other parents out there but when I had a sleeping two-and-a-half year old, I was loath to open a squeaky bedroom door late in the night for fear I would wake my sleeping angel and then spend the next two hours trying to get my well-rested beast back to bed. I cautiously opened the bedroom door and stuck my head inside. I was shocked to see that the entire corner of the room was swarming with tiny little flying insects. My first “momma” instinct was to snatch Jess out of the crib and slam the door on the swarm of insects behind us. I went to the crib and saw that Jess was sound asleep tucked up with her favorite “kankie” (Jess-speak for blanket), sucking her favorite thumb. No bugs were actually by the crib, they were all flying around in the corner trying to get their fair share of the light. I left my sleeping angel there and even though we had to eat generic cereal for the next month, we got the window fixed first thing the next day.
If you take a light as bright as the sun you get a swarm of bugs. If you add a hastily cardboarded broken window and throw in a two-and-a-half year old girl still caged in a crib, you get the unintended consequence of creating a child that is petrified of bugs. We’re not talking “scared” of bugs – we are talking about a child that stood in the backyard screaming her head off with one leg raised in the air because a little bitty tiny grass bug had landed on her sock. We’re talking about a child that doesn’t even like butterflies. We’re talking petrified of bugs.
I had actually forgotten about this particular lapse in parenting until early this summer. Jess and I walked down the street to look at an attic apartment in a house a couple blocks away. Jess asked me if I wanted her to drive over instead of walking. Thinking she was being sensitive to my ongoing back issues, I was touched by her gesture. I should have known something was up. This was the summer of the 13-year cicada. All the trees in our neighborhood were covered in these huge buzzing flying insects. As we walked down the sidewalk, the air was thick with cicadas flying aimlessly around us. For an insect with five eyes, cicadas seem to either not be able to see or just can’t control their flight patterns. These silly bugs careened drunkenly through the air binging into Jess and me as we ducked our heads to avoid hitting the low branches of the trees along the sidewalk. The trees were so laden down with cicadas that the incessant buzzing noise put our eardrums in jeopardy of being ruptured. Every time a cicada would careen towards Jess, she would twitch and try to jump out of the way. When going under the trees, Jess put her hands above her head in fear the cicadas would dive bomb her from the branches and get tangled up in her thick auburn locks. The entire two block trek I walked behind Jess on the narrow sidewalk watching her twitch, duck and squeal like she was being repeatedly shot with a taser gun. Being the good mom I am, I swatted the cicadas away from Jess as best I could while doubled over with laughter.