Slow exploration and rethinking things

Mia and I have had several more delightful trips to the Botanical Gardens; I photographed one of these outings. As much as possible, she is allowed to explore and play on her own time frame with as few rules or interventions from me as possible.

As with most parenting, this is much more of an exercise in restraint for me: Yes, it is perfectly OK for her to play with the push-button engines for 25+ minutes even though we had another destination in mind. No, you don’t need to interrupt her play (which is really the most important learning of all — it is only adult language which attempts to relegate it to the trivial notion of ‘play’) and direct her to the place that YOU want to go. Just chill out, provide a nurturing environment and answer her questions.

The Butterfly Pavilion is one of her favorite spots. Besides watching the adult butterflies emerging from their chrysalises, and observing them flit about, they have other fun insects here, too.

You won’t believe what this adventurous little girl wanted to hold! As we approached, these bugs made teenage boys scream like little girls (indeed that provoked our interest)! Mia was intensely curious about these things, completely unfazed and politely asked if she could hold one, not once, but TWICE. After getting a (partial) handle on my own revulsion (that is, once I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to gag or actually vomit), I realized I had to grab the camera (phone) and document this event. And so, with a mix of pleasure and good dose of mischeviousness, I present Mia holding a Madagascar Cockroach, also known as the Hissing Cockroach.

Now if you haven’t spit up your beverage or decided to report me to Child Services for being an incompetent parent, congratulations. Once you’ve settled down a little, you may be interested to know some of these interesting facts about cockroaches (Thank you, Mr. Entomologist at the Butterfly Pavillion for sharing this info and attempting to educate your guests!):

  • Madagascar Cockroaches are not as afraid of light and movement as the related household pests. That, along with their size and hissing ability, makes them better suited for the movie industry.
  • Cockroaches are NOT inherently dirty creatures. They only get dirty by virtue of what they walk through and eat. Enough said.
  • They clean themselves a lot (he compared them to cats).
  • Irrational fear of cockroaches has been encouraged by none other than: the Pest Control Industry and Pesticide Manufacturers! Mr. Entomologist specifically cited the end of WWII and the dawn of Industrial Agriculture, as in (paraphrased by yours truly): “What do we do with all these chemical plants now? Ah-ha! We find new markets and develop fabulous marketing campaigns to convince people of the need for these things. Of course!”
  • Full on cockroach infestations (of a home) are definitely not good, but for the most part they are not a big deal. Certainly not as big of a deal as the Pesticide Manufacturers would have us believe. [Further speculation from me: Residual pesticides from over application might even be worse than a few cockroaches! This certainly was the case for DDT. I’ll find some facts and report back soon.]
  • Yes, they can transmit disease IF they have crawled through contaminated things (sewers and dog poo!) AND you ingest things they subsequently crawl on. However this is generally not a problem in a typical clean home & kitchen. (Note from me: This is clearly not a problem for us nor, I imagine, for almost all the people we know personally in the US & Mexico.)
  • Cockroaches (and all insects) are excellent sources of protein. Americans have a unique disdain for these apparently fabulous dietary options.

And here is some supplemental information provided by your dorky author scientist and Google:

  • Cockroaches are insects of the order Blattodea, sometimes called Blattaria, of which about 30 species out of 4,600 total are associated with human habitats. About four species are well known as pests. (Wikipedia)
  • Cockroaches first appeared in the Paleozoic era, about 400 Million years ago. They haven’t changed since then.
  • Many humans (especially Americans) have an irrational fear of cockroaches; these things usually stem from observation of our parents and caregivers. This article is long but insightful and hilarious:

This is all completely fascinating to me. One of the trivially great things about living in Colorado is that we didn’t see a single cockroach for the entire 1.5 years we were there. It is just too cold for the little buggers. As you might imagine, there were indeed cucarachas in Mexico, and we definitely had sightings but they really weren’t problematic in homes/kitchens that were kept clean (interestingly, the shared kitchen was the worst but I don’t even remember seeing a single cockroach in the private homes/kitchens).

And then we returned to our Albuquerque home, which is located in the inner valley of the Rio Grande and the historic Downtown neighborhoods. In our ‘hood, we say these things contribute to something called “charm”.

Ok, but what do these allegedly charming things have to do with cockroaches? Due to our proximity to the river, we have a shallow water table here; because of the soils in the inner valley, the subsurface materials hold more water than the generally better draining sands up in the Heights; because the houses are old (ours was built in 1928), the plumbing and public water & sewer lines are old. All of these things contribute to MORE cockroaches! (Not so charming, I know. So just imagine how charming the ‘hood must be if buyers can overlook this aspect.) And this year, we’ve had lots of cucarachas (perhaps the ample rainfall?). The whole neighborhood complains about it.

Thankfully, most of the little buggers are outside though a few find their way into the house (where we find them in the morning, dead or dying from the residual “green” pest control). It is hard to be really clean ALL THE TIME when you have a cooking, eating 3.5-year old and her friends.

So…despite my recently acquired knowledge about cockroaches, it will be difficult to reprogram a lifetime of ingrained reactions to the buggers. For Mia’s sake, I will work hard to do so. Wouldn’t want to her to develop Katsaridaphobia because I freak out at the sight of the things.

Now, lest you are stuck with images of Mia holding huge cockroaches in your head, here are some recent moments at home…

Happy summer!

About Stephanie

I am a mother and a wife, lady scientist, gardener, fabulous cook, foodie, world traveler, and aspiring polymath. I like to ignore stereotypes, challenge the status quo and encourage independent thought.
This entry was posted in Family, Mia, Parenting, Schooling, Science and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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