At what point do kids become afraid of bees?
Usually, bees are portrayed in kids books and TV shows as fat, friendly little creatures with an unused stinger, if they have one at all. Nothing to fear there. But even so, sometime in the last few months, I've noticed Nora getting nervous around bees.
All along, I've tried to be a model of good bee behavior to Nora. I don't want her to become one of those people who flails their arms and jumps into a lake the second a bee buzzes by. When we encounter one in the yard or out and about, I don't panic, I don't swat. I just ignore it, or maybe herd everyone inside (calmly!) if it gets too persistent. I talk up how bees make honey and pollinate flowers and all that good stuff.
But last week I was NOT a good bee-behavior model, I'm afraid. It was a gorgeous day for a picnic at the State Farmer's Market, and some friends proposed a picnic. We found the perfect table, unpacked our food and dug in. I'd barely had my first bite of sandwich before the first bee buzzed us. No big deal. Then a second one came. And a third, and a fourth. So we REpacked all the food and led some very confused 3-year-olds to a different picnic table far away.
We unpacked again and … bees. Lots of 'em.
We gave up and headed to a table inside. We unpacked again and finally got some food in the kids and in ourselves. And then … you guessed it! Bees. Inside. Really.
Clearly, there was nowhere to run, so we just accepted our fate and tried to ignore the bees all around. They seemed mostly interested in our food, not us, so we co-existed pretty well for a while there.
But then, as I was talking to my friend and the 3-year-olds were contentedly playing together nearby, war was declared.
Nora came up to talk to me, and her friend pointed to her and said "There's something on her back!" Instead of looking at it, I assumed it was a piece of food or a sticker leftover from earlier in the day or … who knows. So I kept talking to my friend and picked at whatever it was stuck to the back of Nora's shirt. Only when I got stung on the finger did I figure out it was a bee. Oops.
Unfortunately, because I wasn't expecting the sting, I kind of panicked and let out loud yelp and jumped up. It was more out of surprise than pain (though GOLLY -- it did hurt!), but still, it was exactly the wrong thing to do.
My reaction scared Nora, and of course I had to explain that the bee stung me, and that made her even more upset. I got her calmed down and we headed home, and I thought that was the end of it. (For her, anyway -- *I* had a whole day of ice packs and a throbbing, swollen hand to enjoy.)
But a few days later we ate lunch outside and attracted a bee. I wasn't too glad to see it, so I might have looked a little more perturbed than I should have, but Nora burst into tears right away and started swatting madly. Sigh. So now I have a lot of de-programming to do.
Bees are our friends. Bees are our friends. Bees are … oh, screw it. Let's eat lunch inside.