When I was a kid, nothing scared me more than the soggies, as in the bad guys from the Captain Crunch commercials. For those of you who missed it, they were pirates made of milk sogged cereal who would forcibly board Captain Crunch’s ship and try to murder him. Or at least that was my take away. I would have this recurring nightmare that the soggies lived in my attic and at night they would sneak into my room and pick up my bed with me in it and march me into the attic where through some kind of space vortex I would be held captive is soggy world. I recently watched one of those old commercials on YouTube and it turns out, they aren’t scary at all. But I can still see the soggies from the nightmares of my youth and I promise you those guys are terrifying. Anyways, here’s the dumb stuff my three boys have been scared of.
My First Born: Grasshoppers
It’s all his mother’s fault. My wife has a thing about grasshoppers. It’s somewhere in between being grossed out and being terrified. The summer when my first born was two was an especially bad year for grasshoppers. Being two, he was just beginning to explore and learn about his world. Part of that process includes watching your parents and their reactions to their environment. Well every time a grasshopper would jump on my wife she would scream and do this funny seizure thing and run away. I assume that my son, being the astute observer that he is reasoned that his mother’s reaction to grasshoppers was predicated upon them being dangerous. I would venture that because of the extreme nature of her reactions that he assumed grasshoppers were the most lethal thing on the planet. And they were everywhere. It got so bad that he was terrified to go outside. I finally had to implement some exposure therapy and force him to hold a grasshopper in his hand. He screamed bloody murder, thinking his hand was going to melt or explode off of his arm before finally realizing that aside from some sticky brown bug puke, the thing was harmless.
My middle son: Spiders
Ok so I have to agree that this one is a rational fear, spiders are terrifying. But the circumstances regarding this particular fear morphed it into a bizarre fascination. When he was a toddler we were still renting. The rental house in question had a massive hobo spider infestation. There’s mixed info on whether or not hobo spiders are truly dangerous with some people saying that they have a necrotic bite similar to the brown recluse and others saying that they are virtually harmless. Harmless or not, they are huge and disgusting and we had hundreds of them in our basement. They rendered the bottom half of our house unlivable for the summer. We combated the problem using those sticky spider traps which, while effective it really displayed how terrible the problem was. In our basement were dozens of sticky traps with literally hundreds of hobo spiders. They would stay alive for days, straining and wiggling against their sticky confinement like some grotesque, eight legged swamp monsters. My middle son was only slightly less terrified than he was fascinated. His favorite thing to do was make me take him down into the basement to look at the spiders. He would grip my leg in fear while marveling at how big and scary each spider was. For five years, even after we moved out of that house he insisted on dressing up like a spider each Halloween.
My youngest: The emergency exit door at my restaurant
By the time my youngest was two years old we decided to end our daycare arrangement. The older two were in school and my parents were retired so it just made sense. There were times, however when I had to take him to work at the restaurant with me. My kids are very well behaved but a two year unleashed in a restaurant is still a liability. He began to wander a bit too far when I would get busy in the kitchen and I realized that if he were to open the emergency exit door in the dining room that he would be smack dab in the middle of the parking lot. So the creative solution I came up with was to tell him a story about how that door was where we locked up all the scary monsters. We went down to it and I made him listen to the sounds, which was just wind and traffic, but sounded a lot like a horde of evil monsters given enough imagination. His eyes grew wide with horror. I can only guess at the depths of his imagination of what terrible beasts laid just beyond the emergency exit door. He never questioned why I had a door which imprisoned a population of giant monsters, and he never once tried to open it. So I suppose my plan worked but even now, knowing that the door is just a door, he gives it an extra wide birth when walking near it.
Fear is a funny thing. At least the fears of our childhood. It’s been decades since I’ve had a nightmare about the soggies but the memory of that terror remains fresh in my brain. In a way I kind of cherish those childish fears because there was always an element of adventure to it. And for what it’s worth, Captain Crunch is still the crunchy part of a balanced diet.