Sometimes as parents we say things to our children that unintentionally lead us down paths we had no idea we’d be taking. I had this happen recently with my girls. They had caught a butterfly while they were outside. They brought it in and asked if they could keep it. I told them that keeping a butterfly as a pet isn’t a very nice thing to do to a butterfly since they only live 2-4 weeks.
That’s when Scout, one of my 6-year-olds, looked at me with eyes that had huge tears leaping out of them. This tidbit of information was news to her! She was absolutely distraught at the injustice of a butterfly’s miserably short existence.
I had no idea my simple comment about a butterfly’s length of life would reduce one of my children to tears.
In situations like this, I take pride in how our family faces the realities of life, and one of those unfortunate realities is death. We all die, not just humans, but animals and every living thing that exists on this planet. That is something we face and accept. It’s not easy, but that’s part of the burden that humans carry: having the realization that our time will end. It allows us to appreciate life and look for every opportunity to improve it, not just for ourselves, but for those around us and for generations to come.
The fact that my daughters acknowledge life’s preciousness in something as simple as a butterfly makes me extremely proud of them and their appreciation of their own time here on Earth. I feel as if my daughters are able to empathize with others on a level that I wasn’t able to achieve until I shed my religious beliefs a few years back.
My oldest daughter, Zoë, wrote a story about the butterfly incident and it was so sweet I thought I’d share it.
Katrina the Butterfly
One day Zoë, Briar, and Jude went out to get the mail. When they went up to the house Zoë spied a butterfly. She picked it up and ran into the house and out the back door and went on the swing.
She studied the butterfly and decided to call it “Katrina”, for short “Klin”.
When her sisters, Scout and Jude went back outside (Briar is too afraid of bees to go outside) they went to Zoë. She showed them Klin. They wanted to hold her too. She let them hold Klin. They tried to get Briar to, but she would think it was a bee, of course, because Klin was yellow, but then Briar loved her.
Eventually, Klin had to go; butterflies only live two weeks. So Zoë let Klin go to make more and more Klins.
So now they are going to have a butterfly family!
The last line that Zoë wrote is referring to my idea to buy caterpillars. To help the girls feel a bit better about the butterflies’ lifespan, I promised them we could purchase some caterpillars, and then once they’ve become butterflies, we’d let them go so they could enjoy their life in freedom . That way we could sort of participate in the caterpillar/ butterflies’ lives, but let them have their freedom once they got their wings. I retrieved our old butterfly garden we had previously used for a science project a few years back and ordered some caterpillars.
We raised the 5 caterpillars over the course of a month and then let them go a few days after they hatched from their chrysalises. We were very joyous; all 5 caterpillars survived and turned into happy, healthy butterflies.
Below are the photos of our butterflies (and the names our girls gave them) on the day they were released into freedom.
I am not too proud to admit that part of being a responsible parent is listening to your children. I know my kids have not only changed the way I view life, but they’ve made me a better person. Today when Scout told me there was a bug on the floor, I went over and killed it. Her tears welled up as she protested that the bug was harmless and I should have just put it outside. Rob and I believe she is right and has a valid point. From now on, as long as the bug is harmless, we will remove the bug from the house and put it outside.
Spiders inside the house though? Spiders aren’t bugs…so they shall be smashed! Oh, and houseflies, bees, mosquitoes, fire ants, and wasps are all fair game, too, since they can either carry disease or sting.