From Weenie to Warrior: Handling Spiders as a Dad
A few years ago I found myself in the shower, naked of course, screaming and flailing around. Why? A tiny spider whom I’d dubbed Arnold was dangling in front of my face. We’d bonded over the course of a few weeks, him in the corner and me doing my shower thing. Then he decided to surprise me, and I still killed him despite our bond. Handling spiders was not my specialty area.
I can think back to numerous instances where my dad handled bugs like a total boss. Instead of swatting wasps he would plant the flyswatter over them and use his bare thumb. He still does this and he’s never been stung.
As a dad-to-be, something had to give.
This super serious guide is for all the shower-screaming dads out there.
Note: I don’t condone the mass murdering of bugs, but I understand the urge to smash spiders and the other creepy crawlies comes naturally for most, myself included.
Kids and Bugs: A Love Story
When you’re a kid, bugs are the coolest. You play with them, collect them, and generally aren’t afraid of them. At least, I wasn’t. Unless we’re talking about ticks. Those could go to hell.
There’s a general rule of thumb when you’re a kid: don’t mess with stinging insects. Beyond that, anything’s fair game.
Somewhere between being a grubby kid playing in the creek and becoming a pampered desk jockey, I lost my love for bugs. Sure, ladybugs are cute. Bumblebees? You guys are cool. Keep keeping us alive. A spider in the house? Time to burn the place down and move. (Ticks can still go to hell.)
When I found out I would be a father, one of the first things I thought about was how I’d deal with bugs when my future son was old enough to play with the crawly critters. It would only be a matter of time before something got in the house that even he didn’t want to deal with, especially living in Texas.
The guy flailing around and screaming in the shower would have to go.
Handling Spiders Like a Pro
There are a number of changes that happen when you first become a parent. First, you no longer care about yourself very much. Not at first, at least. The only thing that matters is keeping your little one alive and taking care of your partner. Forget eating or wearing anything beyond gym shorts, you’ve got a little one to keep alive!
Next, you develop a near-limitless source of energy. The idea of waking up at 3am to clean probably didn’t sound appealing before. Now that you’re a parent? You can wake up every two hours to change a diaper or feed the little one and then start your day a few hours later. Coffee helps.
You also find yourself feeling the urge to be brave. Notice I didn’t say you suddenly ARE brave, only that you feel the urge to be brave. Feeling brave and bold is the first step to actually being brave, so congratulations!
So, what’s a new dad to do when that first spider finally shows up and you need to put on your game face?
Step 1: Internal Screaming
Remember those screams we talked about earlier? The ones emitted while completely vulnerable in the shower? Nip that in the bud right now. You need to look calm, for both your little one and possibly your partner. And for what little dignity you have left. (Those first few months in gym shorts did you no favors.)
Shut your mouth tight, let your eyes bug out, and stay cool. You got this. If it helps, visualize yourself as being several-hundred times larger than the spider.
“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Step 2: Survey Your Surroundings
Cleanliness Awareness is next to godliness. Don’t start flailing around and windmilling. You’re bound to smack someone in the face doing that. You don’t want the spider laughing at you, do you?
Note where everyone else is while keeping your eyes on the spider. They’ll use one of their 900 eyes to find a moment to run if you turn away, so don’t lose visual of the little monster.
Step 3: Find a Weapon
How many legs do you have? One? Two? How many does a spider have? Eight. That’s right, eight.
You may be bigger, stronger, faster, smarter, more technologically-advanced, more attractive, and more financially stable than the spider, but it has eight legs. That’s a lot of legs. You need to arm yourself. Or in this case, leg yourself.
If possible, find something big and sturdy. Flyswatters will work in a pinch, but they can bend and send insects flying if you don’t have solid contact. A boot or shoe, thick magazine, or spare chunk of timber is more ideal. If all else fails and you don’t have time to assemble a weapon, simply step on the bastard, or clap your hands together and smash it if it’s currently airborne.
Step 4: Attack With Unfettered Rage and Valor
You’re armed. You’re legged. It’s time.
You’ve been training your entire life for this moment. Or maybe just the past few seconds. Either way, you’re ready.
Ready your weapon, line it up with the spider, and swing away. That spider may be smaller than you, slower than you, terrified of you, and pose little-to-no threat, but you can do this.
Note: Smashing a spider can be an incredibly bad idea. There’s no way of knowing if the spider is carrying a ton of babies on its abdomen. If you’re brave you can get up close and check. If not, prepare for the worst when smashing it. If you have a spray with you, even some kind of fragrant spray like Lysol or the like, be prepared to rain death upon the scattering mini-spiders.
Step 5: Clean it Up
There’s likely a smattering of spider goo and surrounding fallout to clean up. When you’re certain the spider has ceased existing, grab a dustpan or stray piece of cardboard. (The side of a six-pack works well.)
Using another object, perhaps a broom-like tool, sweep the spider carcass into the dustpan or similar receptacle. Next, drop the remains into your toilet and flush them. Maintain eye contact until the water has gone down and returned, spider less. You wouldn’t want that thing climbing out of the toilet, training for months, and coming back to kill you. (R.I.P. Jeff)
For those of you curious why you should use the toilet instead of the trashcan, remember this: spiders can have little spider spawn attached to them.
In most cases, the area in which you fought the spider requires more clean up than the spider pile itself. Once you’ve washed away the spider remains, tend to the surrounding area and make sure your house isn’t a total wreck. If your house is a complete disaster and your partner asks you what happened, don’t try blaming the spider. They won’t believe you. They never do…
Becoming a Spider Master
Now that you know how to murder spiders with extreme prejudice, it’s time to evolve one step further; you need to learn to catch and release the eight-legged fellas.
I’ve killed more spiders in my day than I care to admit. I’m still working on not impulse-smashing every bug I see in the house, but I’ve certainly made strides toward catching and releasing insects and arachnids. Spiders can do a ton of good inside and outside your home. Obviously some spiders are dangerous, but most are just looking for some pests to eat and a corner to hang in.
If you can keep your cool long enough, handling spiders can be pretty simple. Get a container, place it over the spider, and slide a sheet of paper or thin piece of cardboard underneath the container. (Again, the siding of a six-pack works well!)
Carefully pick the container up, keeping the sheet flush against the container’s opening. Walk outside a good distance, lower the container to the ground, remove the sheet, and let the spider wander out. It’ll find a home somewhere, most likely outside, and keep eating the real pests. If you have a mosquito problem or regularly deal with any ants or roaches getting in your house, spiders can do a great job keeping those numbers down.
If only they’d keep the solicitors from knocking on my door.