Quote of the Week

"We Must be Willing to Give Up the Life We Have Planned, So As to Have the Life that is Waiting for Us."
-Joseph Campbell
Week of Aug 12, 2013




Sunday, November 6, 2011

Loving A Caterpillar

I wanted to share the story of "Nick & his Caterpillar." I want to have it written down to save...and why not share it at the same time?

Nick is an animal/nature lover. He's gone from wanting to be a vet to a marine biologist to a "diver." He's got the kindest heart and just loves living things. He cracks me up -- we were in the middle of the woods on Thanksgiving - it was beautiful with the leaves changing and the silence of no-technology ... and he and I took a walk together. As we headed back, I said "Wasn't that a great walk?" And he said, "Yeah, but I didn't see any nature." Me, "Uh, Nick - this IS nature. What do you mean?" He says, "But there weren't any creatures." Ah, apparently you need some creatures to really experience nature. I digress.

So, in late summer Nick found a pretty impressive green caterpillar. One of the great kids in our neighborhood even gave him an old plastic aquarium type thing - perfect for housing a caterpillar. Nick lovingly filled it with rocks, dirt, leaves and twigs. He and his little friends also fed this caterpillar small tomatoes. And it was cool to be able to watch it eat these things and seem to thrive in it's little caterpillar home.

Nick even took the caterpillar to school and was the star of the class showing it off and talking about it. And he likes to learn about the things he's interested in. So, we sat down to Google this caterpillar and discovered it was some sort of horned tomato caterpillar (I've forgotten the real name.) He thought it was so cool that I found pictures that looked exactly like what he had. Then I got the brilliant idea to look up what this caterpillar would turn into. I found the picture of a giant and pretty moth. And told Nick - "look, this caterpillar will be a moth!" I was surprised to see his eyebrows get splotchy and red (his tell-tale sign of embarrassment or hurt feelings) and tears start to fall.

Me, "What what? Why are you crying?"
Him, "I wanted my caterpillar to turn into a BUTTERFLY. Not a moth."
Now my head is spinning.
Me, "But, but - did you see the picture? This isn't any ordinary moth!" (I'm talking real fast now.) "Look at it - it's like a butterfly. Yeah, moths are just a TYPE of butterfly. Look, it has big giant wings and it's really pretty. This is cool - it's a COOL moth. I think your caterpillar would be sad that you didn't like what it turned into. It's still neat. Don't you think it's neat?"
Silence.
Holding my breath.
Him, "Yeah."
Me, "Yeah?"
Him, "Can I go tell my friends that it's going to be a giant moth?"
Me, breathing out - "Yes."

And so it went. Him bringing the caterpillar in. Me taking it off the kitchen table. Him bringing the caterpillar in. Me checking to see if it was still in there. Him getting into school and friends and forgetting about the caterpillar. Me asking him if he'd put in new leaves, then sticking it out on the deck so it wasn't in my house.

Then one day I hadn't seen it in awhile and asked Ryan how it was doing. Ryan made a face and told me it had died. I asked him if Nick knew. Nope.

Another couple of days had passed, then I saw Nick coming up the stairs, carrying the caterpillar home, and crying. Ryan and I exchanged looks. Here we go.

Me, "What's the matter?"
Him, "I can't find my caterpillar." (Ryan had told me it had shriveled up real small.)
My heart starts to break, but I know we've got to do this.
Me, "Really, ok - let's take it out on the deck and look." (I needed some time to think.)

As we dig through it, he's sniffling, but doing ok. I tell him, "Nick, something to think about. There's a chance maybe the caterpillar has died." He says, "But why?" I tell him, it's really hard to take care of something that belongs in nature. I'm still digging through the stuff - not finding the thing. Then, in an act of desperation I try a new tactic.

Me, "Nick, maybe it already turned into a moth and flew away?"
Nick, "It couldn't get out."
Me, "But maybe it did. Like one of the times you opened the lid."
Nick, "I would have seen it. It didn't."
Me, "Are you sure? Maybe it got through one of those holes, or flew out when you weren't looking."
Nick, "I don't think so."
So much for that.

Then I find it. Small, shriveled up caterpillar.
Me, "Oh Nick. I'm sorry. Here it is. I'm sorry buddy, I think it died."
Nick, "Oh no. No no no."
I wrap him up in my arms.

Me, "Nick, I'm sorry. I know this hurts really bad. It's really hard to take care of something that belongs in nature. I'm sorry buddy."
Nick, "But I really wanted to see it turn into a moth, and now I won't see it."

I just hold him for awhile as he cries and pat him on the back and hate that moment, but know it's the right way to handle this. Kids have to know tough stuff too. I look up and see Ryan snapping a picture through the window. We must be quite a sight. The two of us. Hugging over a caterpillar. Yeah, I'm wiping tears too.

Then I ask him, "Nick, what would you like to do with the caterpillar? Do you want to bury it?"
Nick, "Yes. I know where."
Me, "Ok. We can do it together."

He takes me under the deck, where there's already a hole in the ground - and one of my gardening shovel thingies. Of course I'm wondering what this is about - but remember the task at hand.

Me, "Do you want me to do it, or do you want to do it?"
Nick, "You do it."

So I take the caterpillar and put it in the pre-dug hole and put some dirt on top. I ask him if he wants to say anything. He gives me a weird look and says no. (I was winging it here. I've never done the passing of beloved creature thing with a kid before.)

He then tells me, "Momma, I don't want to tell my friends. I don't really want to talk about it."
I tell him ok. We go up for dinner, his eyebrows still pretty red. I am able to cut off his older brothers with THE LOOK. And we manage to keep him distracted, but I can tell he's still pretty bummed.

Maybe a week later, I remembered the magic of You Tube. I looked up "caterpillar turning into butterfly." I was able to show Nick time lapse videos of various caterpillars making their cocoons and then coming out of them and turning into various moths and caterpillars. He thought that was pretty cool. Sure, he'd still like to have a cocoon of his own to watch. And yes, I've been inspecting trees to see if I can find one. But this way, I don't have "nature" doing its thing on my kitchen table.

And I totally get what he was looking forward to. I'm doing it too - -watching my little caterpillars grow and change. And amaze me. Kids are pretty cool. I'm going to enjoy them now, because soon they too will break out of the safety of our home cocoon, and fly away into the big big world. And I'll be proud - moth or butterfly. Both are pretty darn cool.

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