There is a photo of me, in my stroller, while on a family trip to Florida. I'm about three years old and my older sister E is holding a giant snake with this idiotically proud grin and I'm coiled in the corner quite possibly wetting myself.
As far as I know I wasn't terrorised by a family of snakes as a toddler and am now scared as a repressed result. My direct contact with snakes has been quite limited, mostly by choice, on hikes or now as an adult when I go to take a peak at a small garden snake to help face my fears and get over myself so I can set a good example for Molly and Jack.
The scariest moment between me and a snake was at Santa's Village in Northern Ontario. I was about eight years old and there was this display marked "Baby Rattlers". I backed away cautiously, but my father and sister thought it would be funny to force me closer. They started talking about facing your fears and how if I didn't do it now than I would always be afraid and picked me up and threw me directly in front of the display case. I fought, I screamed, I pleaded, begged and I cried. When I finally opened my eyes I discovered that I was face to face with a display case full of ornate baby rattles. They thought it was hilarious and in my mind high-fived each other the way that 1980's bullies are prone to do. I was furious and my sister and dad were in HUGE trouble from my mom for being such complete jerks.
As a child I was haunted by two recurring nightmares, one of them involved snakes. I would wake up, imagine snakes everywhere and freak out in my bed awakening everyone with blood-curdling screams. There were many sleepless nights. Eventually my mom found a solution. We were out at a craft fair and someone had made this giant wool snake that was about eight or ten feet long. My mom made a huge production about how this was truly the biggest snake she had ever seen. She then bought it for me "to protect me" at night because it was the biggest snake in the world.* And it quite possibly gave my parents significantly better sleep** over the next few months while I recovered from the Santa's Village Incident.
Molly has started to have nightmares, or so she says, but as Chris has pointed out she will pretty much say yes to any question if the mood strikes her. At this point she is easily calmed down with a cuddle, some milk and a back rub before going back to sleep. As a child who loves to be chased, startled and surprised, I can't imagine what is haunting her dreams. That we ran out of raisins? That her brother stole her owl backpack and refuses to give it back? I don't know. For now I'm happy to comfort her, cuddle her and make everything okay. I'm just crossing my fingers that she doesn't develop my fear of snakes and that I can find a giant stuffed whatever to protect her dreams for as long as I can.
*Thankfully there was no internet yet and the movie Anaconda was still several years away from hitting Jennifer Lopez's resume.
**A note to my father and sister: revenge is a dish best served cold....27 years later I have not forgotten.