The best thing about living on the 18th floor is that at this altitude, it’s relatively insect-free. Since we’ve moved into a high-rise, our summer has been virtually free of the mosquitoes which used to plague our sleep every night. So it was something of a shock when a cockroach took up residence in our apartment.
Of course, it’s not the first one we’ve seen in China, and roaches here seem to be less invasive than their western cousins. My wife has a horror story from her time in Paris, of cockroaches breeding in the garbage chute of her apartment block then swarming out in their hundreds into her kitchen. Here, they fly in through the window inadvertently and alone, then scuttle around in the shadows until meeting a sudden end under the sole of a shoe.
What was remarkable on his occasion was the response of our younger son. During the interval between the roach being first spotted and it being stomped, he refused to go upstairs alone, in case he encountered it.
Fear of creepy-crawlies was a big issue when we first discussed moving to Beijing. Joseph was only 6 at the time, and everything he knew about China came from the nature documentaries he and his brother loved.
“There are venomous snakes in China,” he told us, “and deadly spiders.”
We had to convince him that they only lived in the remote countryside, and we were moving to a big city. It was only when we found some online video of Beijing and he saw the cars, roads, and buildings that he was finally reassured.
Worrying about being bitten by a cobra or tarantula is at least rational. It’s hard to argue with a phobia about a tiny insect; “it’s more scared of you than you are of it” has no effect on a frightened child. Worse still, as parents we are usually responsible for our children’s fears. The fact that I instinctively jumped when the roach crawled out in front of me must have triggered his terror.
Fortunately, the slaying of the intruder seems to have calmed his worries. But moving to another country, to a new school, can be unsettling enough for a child, without different creepy-crawlies to deal with too. It can be a tough ask for parents because we have our own childhood traumas to deal with, but for our kids’ sake, we need to be as matter-of-fact as possible when encountering China’s insect life.
Photo: jimjarmo via Flickr