Friday, May 30, 2008

Stealing a Centipede's Life and Other Buddhist Parenting Hypocrisies

I was trying to get the key in the back door when I heard my son furiously stamping on the porch. I turned around and saw him stomping on a bunch of tiny ants.


"I'm killing these ants," my son said and stared at me round-eyed.


"'Cause they were moving around."

We stared at each other.

"Were they hurting you?" I asked.

"No," he said, his eyes getting bigger and more troubled.

"Well then why did you kill them?"

"I don't know. I just did."

We stared at each other.

"You know, once you take an ant's life, you can't give it back," I said.

"I didn't mean to!" he said, eyes getting bigger and sadder, the full impact of his actions now dawning on him.

"You need to be careful about killing things. It's stealing life, and you can't give it back. Those ants weren't bothering you, they weren't hurting you, and you killed them forever."

"I'm sorry!"

Now he looked like he was about to cry. My work was done. Time to reel him back in from the edge.

"It's okay. But just promise me you'll never kill anything that's not harming you, okay?"

"Okay, Mama! I will never steal an ant's life again!"

Buddhist lesson for the day: Check. Awesome parenting: Check.

Fast forward to yesterday morning. As I'm putting the finishing touches on my shimmery face, I hear my son begin to whimper in the hallway.

"Mama, there's something SCARY in here!"

I freeze, mid-dusting of bronzing powder and feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I walked into the hallway with my make-up brush held out before me like a switchblade.

"What is it?" I asked, nervously looking down the hall.

"THAT," my son pointed to the floor at the end of the hallway.





"AHHH!" I yelled and jumped straight into the air.

"Oh no!" my son yelled and ran into his room where he started to cry.

I have an enormous and well-documented phobia of centipedes. I have even discussed it in therapy. It's that bad. I usually cry and scream and run away. I have had several shriek-y battles with them involving Edge shaving gel and other people's shoes. I once saw the granddaddy of all centipedes take a free fall from the ceiling and land on my husband's chest. I had to divorce him after that.

THAT bad.

So in this moment, my fear putting me on full-tilt irrational panic attack mode, and my weeping son beckoning me to be strong, I was caught. Fortunately my love for my son enabled me to get out of my freak-out-induced paralysis, and I went to his room and hugged him.

"It's okay, baby. It's just a centipede. It's a scary-looking bug and mama is afraid of them too, but I will get it for you."

"IT'S SCARY AND I DON'T LIKE IT!" he wailed.

"Mama is going to be a super hero and get that centipede for you," I said and marched out of his bedroom in search of a shoe I didn't care about.

I held the ratty flat sandal I use for gardening out before me. I felt like I was going to throw up, but I lunged forward and squished the huge, hairy, wriggling beast.

"GAH!" I yelled, shuddering as I heard it crunch.

"Did you get it, Mama?" my son called, still sounding weepy.

"I got it!"

He came out and stood next to me, and we examined the remains of the beast.

"What are all those things?" my son splayed his fingers out to represent the multitude of legs and grimaced. I grimaced in return.

"Those are its legs," I said.


"Seriously," I agreed.

"What do you call that thing? Anemone?"


"It's not going to get me any more?"

"Nope. I killed it."

We stood in silence, watching our fallen enemy. He had been a worthy opponent.

"I only kill centipedes. Nothing else," I added.

"Only centipedes. Not ants."

"Right," I said.

I'm totally certain if there had been centipedes in India, the Buddha would have put a disclaimer on that whole "Do Not Kill" thing. I'm sure of it.


  1. You are right. Clearly The Buddha never saw a centipede.

  2. Very cute.
    And YUCK! That pic is horrible.
    My kid is getting into ladybugs since he can hold them, they dont "bite" and they are a pretty red. He still enjoys trying to stomp on bugs and I tell him "That bug was just doing his thing...why did you have to kill him? He didnt do anything to you."

    Except my kid throws his head back and laughs like Dr. Evil.

    At least yours feels remorse.

  3. Centipedes and mice are exempt from the do unto others credo.

  4. the divorce the husband line was a comedic masterstroke.

  5. I was raised by a man that didn't kill mosquitoes; he gently shushed them off his arm.

    I cup spiders in my hand and walk them out of my house.

    I've had the "ant talk" with my 11-year-old son.

    Last week, I killed a "centi-beast" like the one you have pictured and flushed him down the toilet.

  6. I think it may have been one of your ancestors who invented the disclaimer.

  7. I soooo did not need to see that pic. I have a long standing phobia myself... They are HORRID. EVIL! They thrived in the basement of the house I grew up in. *shudder* *wretch*

    Kill them, Mama! Kill them ALL!!!!

    Aaaaand way to go one that other Buddhist stuff:D ~OM

  8. They were moving around..LOL! I love his answers.

    I seen a freaky centipede the other day running. It was orange and know that bitch had to be poisonious

  9. Of course I just looked up the House Centipede and apparently they are harmless and actually kill other bugs for you.

    But they called it a "nocturnal predator."

    I can't live with nocturnal predators! Come on!

  10. Kill. Them. ALL!

  11. You've got me looking up bugs and I realized what Ive been killing over the past few yrs that always seem to be around the shower area.
    Do centipedes like water? Yuck, man, yuuuuuuuuuuck.
    I need to look up some cute rollie pollies now to forgive all those pod group of insects. yuck yuck. I cant believe that's what Ive been killing. Ours are smaller though. I wonder if it is a centipede. I always thought of them as some kind of water bug/spider.

  12. Centibeasts like water and damp areas. This is why you should never leave a pile of damp towels in your basement. You're just asking for trouble.

  13. You should write a monster movie about a killer centipede.

    Speaking of rollie pollies, my kids will spend a half hour collecting them on the sidewalk, oohing and ahhing, carrying them around, playing with them.

    Then they set them free. And squash 'em. My attempts at explaining how that is not a cool thing to do are lame because I have a hard time not laughing. They get really animated and stomp on each one like ten times each while screaming like the monsters they are.

  14. But they're so cute and harmless!

  15. I'd say that technically they were harming you, so the squish was OK. Harming your psyche counts when it's you against a bug, right?

  16. I'd be willing to put money on the fact that I'm coming back as a centipede.

    I gots a karmic debt to pay.

  17. Cracky Logic....
    day one

    YGTBKM "Why do you like boobs?"
    Cracky "I dont know. I just do."

    *day two front porch*

    YGTBKM "Why did you kill the ant?"
    Cracky "I dont know. I just did."

    funny- I like the feeling all those 'feet' had on my hand.... Buddha would be happy with me?

  18. I am petrified every time I see a spider .. our house is full of it. They mostly creep-up at night .. they crawl everywhere, ceilings, walls, floors, windows, shower ... Yuk!

    "Fortunately my love for my son enabled me to get out of my freak-out-induced paralysis"

    Same here ...

    "and marched out of his bedroom in search of a shoe I didn't care about."

    Oh! So true ... usually borrow my dh shoes .. he won't even notice it! Ha! ha! ha!


  19. I know you used some random sneaker......RIGHT?!?!?!?

  20. I'm Wonder Woman when it comes to killing bugs! I don't kill anything that doesn't threaten to jump on me and sink it's poisonous fangs into my flesh (whether they be real or imaginary is not the point).
    When I was little I watched my Grandma as she took a broom and knocked a humungous hairy spider who had been terrorizing me off the wall and smashed it. I was in awe of her courage. I found that courage too when my children were little.
    Now I laugh at your centipede, it is no match for me! Even as I shudder to imagine it jumping on me and sinking it's poisonous fangs...

  21. We actually have these things called "exterminators" where I live. They come to your house and you pay them money to invoke the karma god's wrath upon themselves, thus diverting it from you.

    And if you are lucky, they will pay you to write screenplays for them.

  22. I have an irrational fear of these fuckers, too. When I was in university there was one in my apartment, the first time I'd ever seen one. Those buggers are fast! I ended up killing it with an old flip flop, then I threw out the shoes and slept at my friend's house. I think it took me over two days to go back home.

    We don't let the kids kill bugs outside, but I let them squish "bugs that bite" if they're in the house. That at least satisfies their lust for blood. Things like ants we trap and set free, but those centifuckers need to die.

  23. Centifuckers!

    God, SM, you have a way with words. I want to steal them.

  24. You do a great job sharing Cracky's little life with us! Adorable!

  25. You are a big baby. Centipedes are awesome at killing other nasty insects. Circle of life, and all that. And he wasn't hurting anyone. That's very opportunistically un-Buddha of you. You are coming back as the hairiest of hairy know that, right?

    *measures distance of about 100 feet and stands back from BM's baaaaaaaaaaad karma*

  26. You are a big baby. Centipedes are awesome at killing other nasty insects. Circle of life, and all that. And he wasn't hurting anyone. That's very opportunistically un-Buddha of you. You are coming back as the hairiest of hairy know that, right?

    *measures distance of about 100 feet and stands back from BM's baaaaaaaaaaad karma*

  27. Centipedes and scorpions are the only insects whose existence I can not stand. However I have a soft spot for rollie pollies. I used to collect them and carry them around in my pocket. My poor mother would find them when she did the wash, about gave her a heart attack the first time. After that we had the discussion about respecting life, and how I could never keep living things in my poor mother :P

  28. Those things are made out of ghosts, I swear to Buddha. What the hell proportionate land speed do they travel at? Mach 8?

  29. They may be harmless, but come on. That thing is nasty...

  30. Okay, for me its cockroaches....especially those two inch long flying ones that people call 'water bugs'. I had one fly at me while I was trying to kill it with bug spray. I just about had a heart attack and the bug spray got in my eye when the bug flew at my face. It took me two weeks to stop having nightmares about huge flying cockroaches...eww..

  31. I want to teach that lesson to my son too, but living in Florida we get a ton of fire ants. It's harder for him to understand the specific directions...

    "Big ants are our friends but kill the heck of of the little ones so they don't sting you and leave big itchy welts."

    He is confused, especially after watching ant bully.