Yes, you read that correctly. For our ninth experience of the year we touched a tarantula. We also pet a hissing cockroach, a millipede, and a scorpion. No, our house is not infested with pests. We visited Insectropolis, a private “bugseum” in Toms River, New Jersey.
So, out of all the possible experiences I could choose to do with my children, why did I choose this one? First of all, I want all of us to get out of our comfort zone a bit. Second, I want to raise children who respect and appreciate all forms of life. I am a Buddhist at heart. It pains me to kill a bug. However, I don’t particularly like the way bugs look, sound, crawl, fly, move their legs, or twitch their antennae. So, during our trip to the bugseum, I tried valiantly to instill an appreciation for insects and spiders while hiding the fact that my skin was crawling.
The most ironic aspect about Insectropolis, a museum whose purpose is to “foster a greater appreciation for bugs and their place in our world” is that it is owned and run by Ozane Termite and Pest Control. It is a brilliant marketing ploy. The ticket a person receives upon entering Insectropolis doubles as a gift certificate that may be used for any pest control service. Seriously. I did not make that up. While the museum is very educational and really does spotlight bugs in a positive manner, the company knows exactly what it is doing. There is no way homeowners can walk through that museum, seeing thousands of termites, ants, and bees without wanting to bring an exterminator home with them. They will want to bomb their house with whatever chemicals necessary to ensure that nothing with more than 2 legs will be able to survive inside or out.
After walking through several rooms of live cockroaches, ants, and termites, not to mention the thousands of pinned insects, I was feeling edgy. Leah’s skirt brushed against my leg and I jumped five feet. I kept looking around out of the side of my eyes, thinking I saw bugs crawling on me. Yet I never let my kids know that. Instead, I pointed out how interesting it was that worker ants piled all the dead ants into one heap. We held out our hands and estimated that the cockroaches were closer in size to Leah’s outstretched hand than Luke’s palm. Luke seemed both fascinated and repulsed by the tarantulas. Leah enjoyed crawling through a tunnel like a termite.
We were about to leave the museum when a friendly staff member asked if we would like our own private presentation with some of the museum’s bugs. My kids said they had no intention of touching any bugs, but I bribed them with something from the gift shop if they were brave enough to give it a try. No additional arm twisting was necessary.
The presentation was short but informative. I really did not want to touch any bugs. I don’t even enjoy petting dogs or cats much, let alone insects big enough to eat a bird. Yet, I wanted to show my kids that I am willing to go outside of my comfort zone, too. The cockroaches, millipede, and scorpion were all hard but smooth to the touch. The tarantula was surprisingly soft and not nearly as scary as I had expected it to be. On the way home, Leah declared that Julius the scorpion was her favorite while Luke decided Rosie the tarantula was his. I am pretty sure I have reached my lifetime bug touching quota, but I am glad I gave it a try.
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