I don't like bugs. I particularly don't like killing bugs that we might come across in the house. Thus, for the past almost-two years, I've had an arrangement with my boys (who have no idea that I hate killing bugs and who believe that the deal is exclusively for their benefit) that if they deal with a bug that I/they find inside the house (either by killing or releasing it), I will record a tally mark for each bug killed. Each tally mark represents $0.10; thus, after disposing with 50 bugs from inside the house they would earn $5.00. Matthew just earned $5.00; Seth also did, just recently.
(Note: Lizzie is excluded from this arrangement simply because she doesn't care. She actually has two tally marks from the past almost-two years, but she cares not a whit about the possible money. If she spies a bug inside the house, she merely calls one of the boys over!)
We really don't have a lot of bugs in the house, but you know how it is...a lady bug here, a small spider there, a number of silver fish in fall when things are cooling off outside, lots of spring mosquitos allowed by open doors to fly inside.
The boys feel as if they've accomplished something and the plan has worked like a charm. The kids are always excited about adding a tally mark to their total, and I never have to worry about disposing of a bug! It's great.
But a couple of weeks ago I was confronted with a scenario that I'd been dreading for years. YEARS. I've actually had nightmares about it, as silly as it seems.
I'd taken the kids for a nature walk in the morning and, shortly before dinner, I heard shrieks as Matthew came running downstairs in his underwear, gesturing towards his arm.
There was a wood tick stuck on his upper right arm, already growing fat with my boy's blood. A wood tick.
Though Matthew had no idea, I almost threw up at the knowledge that it was me who was going to have to deal with this situation. I was going to have to look at those squirming little legs, that blood-bulging body, and somehow remove it from my son's arm....all without letting him know that I was far more panicky about the situation than he was.
I used the back of a spoon to scrape some old vaseline onto the thing, having remembered from somewhere that woodticks breathe out of their back ends and that vaseline makes them unable to breathe; thus, they are forced to withdraw their head from the person's skin/vein. While I was waiting for the vaseline to do its magic, however, I looked up woodtick removal online...and found out that vaseline doesn't actually work. Neither, apparently, I read, does the application of heat...this was to be my next attempt...in fact, to Matthew's dismay, I'd already pulled out the butane bbq lighter, even not having a clue how to actually apply heat without damaging Matthew's skin.
I read online that sometimes soaking a cottonball in dish washing liquid and holding it over the tick might result in the tick sticking to the cottonball once removed. But wouldn't you know it I was out of cottonballs. So I phoned Geoff and asked him to pick up cottonballs on route home from work; but he wouldn't be home for an hour yet. And Matthew wanted the thing out of him. NOW.
So I continued to read. And darn it, I concluded that I was simply going to have to pull it out myself. I gagged...physically gagged, despite all outward appearances of calm and words of reassurance.
I got out a tweezer and sat Matthew down at the table so that I could read how to do this while actually doing it. I shuddered, applied the tweezer as close to the head of the tick as possible, and squeezed gently. The legs twitched and began to scramble, trying to get the head in deeper. Following instructions, I pulled up just slightly on the tweezer, so that Matthew's skin peaked to a point and stayed like that while the tick hung on. I read that you don't want to twist the thing out, or to pull hard on it; rather, it was better to hang on and pull just a little on it gently, so that hopefully it would give up its grip and pull itself out - the article I was reading said that this was the only way to ensure that the thing came all the way out. So that's what I did.
For a good 20-30 seconds, I hung onto that squirming little thing an inch or so above Matthew's skin while he freaked out that his skin was being pulled on. It didn't appear to actually hurt - but he could feel it and he certainly didn't like the look of his skin being gripped by the tick.
And then, finally, it happened. It just popped out and it was suddenly intact in my tweezers. I dropped it, wriggling, onto the counter, and told Matthew to flush it.
His first response?
"Mom, I think I should get two tally marks on my chart, because not only am I getting rid of the tick, but it was in me."
I agreed. Readily. Two tally marks. I wrote 'em down.
And as for me? Well, I quietly gave myself a badge of bravery for confronting and conquering a fear. Not a big deal for most people, I realize, but for me...well, let's just say that I feel as if I earned a few tally marks myself on that one.
The good news is that I'm ready now. Ready for those wood-dense forest walks. Armed with my tweezers; ready, willing and, finally, able!