Nothing to Fear But Millipedes and Lemon Zest

The other day my daughter F. was digging worms in the garden while I weeded. “I found another one!” she shouted every few seconds. That kid knows how to find worms, I thought. Then I discovered that she was merely “finding” successively smaller pieces of the same big worm, which she was chopping up with her shovel. I hid my grimace as she held out yet another hacked off bit of worm for my inspection.

I also restrained myself when she ran up to show me a “cute brown caterpillar” which was actually a millipede. “Let’s just put this guy back in the grass,” I said, outwardly calm, while inside my brain squealed like a tea kettle: EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

I’ve always liked insects and the natural world, but my bug-love does not extent to spiders, centipedes, or millipedes.  Yet I don’t want to pass on my own hesitations, fears, and repulsions to F. I want her to explore her surroundings with an open and fearless curiosity (within the bounds of relative safety). I want her to dig in the dirt, collect “cute” bugs and try new and different things – including food — of all kinds without hesitation.

Because of this, I must hide my own particular distastes that have no reason beyond personal quirk. For example, I can’t abide egg yolk. Mash it up and make egg salad and I will dig in. But if it’s the cooked yolk of a fried egg, it’s a different story. There’s something about its sticky, gelatinous texture that makes my throat close up. But I try to set an example. I cut it up and put it on toast or swallow it with a sip of coffee, trying to keep my face in a smooth mask of acceptance. It’s hard enough to get kids to eat well; I don’t need them seeing me freak out about a bite of egg.

It’s easier, I think, to hide repulsion than it is to teach it. For instance, our autistic son H. has no clue that certain bodily substances are best disposed of with a flush. To him, that item is a thing of wonder and fascination, with its distinct scent and texture. Yes, we’ve had several horrifying instances of just that spirit of curious exploration I want to instill in my kids, instances that required me to don a Hazmat suit and spend long periods scrubbing furiously at my hands, like an odiferous Lady Macbeth.

Incidents like these have really put some steel in my spine where once I might have been a bit more squeamish. Recently a friend told me she would no longer use lemon zest in recipes because she’d seen some expose on citrus fruit. I didn’t ask for more detail. No doubt it involves vermin of some kind, and some miniscule amount of the above-referenced substance.

I refuse to get worked up about it. I’ll continue to rinse my lemons well and zest them with — well, zest. I’ll be an admirable role-model for my kids, and save my anxiety for the things that really warrant it, like potato eyes, and monkeys wearing suits…and clowns.


About Becca

Becca was born and raised in North Dakota (the nation's forehead), and  now lives in a small town in Minnesota (the nation's right shoulder) with her two children (son "H.", b.2003, who has autism, and daughter "F.", b. 2008), and her husband, "J."  She attended both North Dakota State University (where she studied sociology), and the University of Minnesota, where she came perilously close to earning a degree in English with a minor in history. She is a writer, stay-at-home-special-needs-mom, and small business owner. Becca can also be found at:

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