Thursday, June 9, 2011

Butterfly Mother

Well, I'm down to days now that I have all my children here with me. Let me tell you how it's turning me into a nutjob. You're going to love this.

Conor's preschool is doing the whole Painted Lady butterfly thing. Two weeks ago, he brought home the teeniest, tiniest baby caterpillar in a little plastic cup filled with nutrients. He was to keep it at home and watch it grow and bring it back in once it had formed its chrysalis.

I've done this experiment many times with my children. Years ago, when I was homeschooling little Lyndsay and Dylan, we bought ourselves a butterfly house and mailed in the coupon for our Painted Lady butterfly caterpillars. So marvelous and magical was the experience, that we ordered more. And more. And, when we'd find caterpillars in our garden, we'd bring them in too, and go to the library to hypothesize what we'd found.

I remember how when the butterflies first emerge and get their wings outstretched and unwrinkled, they are very calm, not much into flying. The kids could extend their little fingers and the butterflies would sit right on their fingers. The kids could get a really good look. I also remember how the butterflies loved Lyndsay. Actually, all creatures seemed to love Lyndsay, but there was this one Painted Lady, I remember, who, when Lyndsay brought her outside to fly away, just kept coming back and landing on Lyns. I took pictures of it. She could hold out her finger, and the butterfly would come and rest on her finger. Once it landed on the top of her hair, once on her nose. It was so sweet. The next day, when we were out in the yard, that butterfly (at least we assume it was the same one) came and landed on her head again.

Everyone knows that the reward of the caterpillar is in the butterfly. Everyone knows that when you get a caterpillar, it's the butterfly you really want. It's the butterfly that takes your breath away and makes you marvel.

So, it will shed a little light on my state of mind to know that the day that Conor's now fattened, plumped-up caterpillar crawled to the top of the cup and attached itself to the lid, hanging upside down within, I cried. I knew what was coming. By morning, he would be a chrysalis. I looked at him real good, turning the cup around in my hand to see each angle of his furry body that would never again be. He was about to go through that magical metamorphosis, and never again would he be a caterpillar. I went to my room that night, thinking of him, and cried into my pillow. (I'm teary eyed even writing this, reliving those feelings. I think I may be going crazy. I'm crying over a caterpillar.)

But so it is a mother's curse, to feel everything about her children so intensely it verges on crippling. In all of eternity, we only get to be children for one brief period of time. What a privilege it is to witness a childhood, a time unique in all of our infinite existence. I realize that some of my children are almost finished with that time in their lives, and I mourn the ending of their childhoods. I will have my Lyndsay for all of eternity, but never again will she be a little girl. And while I know that the most beautiful, most marvelous stage of her life is still to come, when she will spread her wings and show the world her brilliant colors, I sometimes long for just one more day as a furry, plump little caterpillar. I mean, darling little girl.

See what I mean? Crazy, I am.

I suppose I am in the process of learning how to go from being a caterpillar mother into a butterfly mother.


Misty said...

Funny... While I completely get your point, while reading your post I took it an entirely different way. I was thinking about how grateful I should be for my own catarpillar days. Instead of always looking ahead for my glorious transformation, I need to live in the now. In the fuzzy fat stage.

Alejandra said...

What a sweet post, I think everyone can relate; us moms watching our children grow and like Misty said, it can be about our own caterpillar days :).

Southern said...

When I was a kid in 2nd grade, I brought in a cocoon on the underside of a leaf, put it in a big jar with other fresh leaves, and poked holes in the wide mason jar lid. I watched it every day, day in and day out, couldn't wait to see what beautiful creature would emerge. Then one morning, I got up to find, wait... hundreds of tiny spiders.

Can you think of a lovely parable for this disappointment? Waiting for a butterfly and finding spiders instead? It wasn't their fault they were born spiders. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Luisa Perkins said...

You're not crazy. You feel things deeply. It's a blessing.