Thursday, July 15, 2010

Into Butterflies

It took me a long time to become a mother. As a result,  before my girls were born I had a lot of time to fantasize about all the wisdom I would pass along to the next generation.

Never would I have guessed that it was a two-way street... that being a mother is most rewarding when you are learning as much from, or as a result of, your children as they are from you.

We currently have a Monarch caterpillar living in our kitchen... my husband found him out in the pasture, and brought him in to show the girls.  The younger promptly named him Stripey, and claimed him as her own.  

We watched in amusement while he chowed down on milkweed, marveled at how much caterpillars poop, wondered together why they have antennae at BOTH ends... and today, noticed that Stripey was hanging upside down, with just his behind attached to the leaf.  I figured it best to do some research into Monarch metamorphosis, just to stay one step ahead and know what to expect.  We've been through this once before, when my older daughter was about this age, but apparently I've forgotten what I learned from the experience (other than make sure the chrysalis is under cover, just in case the butterfly emerges when the only one home to enjoy the show is the cat...).

So anyway, today I learned that rather than spinning a cocoon (as I had somehow assumed), the Monarch sheds it skin and the chrysalis is then revealed.  It is soft, at first, but then hardens to a protective shell, sheltering the creature inside at it completes it transformation, which takes about a week.

A week?  To turn munching jaws into a nectar-sipping straw?  To turn a fat-bodied, grub-like eating (and pooping) machine into one of the worlds most beautiful, delicate, graceful creatures?  Wow.  There may be hope for me yet... but I digress...

Before I had children, the fantasy was all about rocking tiny happy babies who slept all night, then passing all my worldly (ha!) wisdom along as they grew.  That fantasy ranked right up there with that of natural childbirth... idealistic?  Yes.  Realistic? No.

The truth is that every minute of motherhood has been a learning experience of the beautiful kind.  

I've learned how bees make honey, how horses were domesticated, how Monarch caterpillars turn into butterflies.  Yes, those things were all taught in my school at some point... but there is a difference between being taught something, and truly learning it through necessity... like having to explain it to your kids.  

Then, too, I've acquired knowledge of things you can only really learn once you are a mother.  Like how to survive on zero sleep while the baby goes through a colicky stage.  How to be assertive with professionals who don't know your child as well as you do.  When to give comfort and Tylenol, and when to head to the emergency room.  And just how beautiful and wondrous this world really is, when you see it through the eyes of your child.

I hope that as they grow from little girls to young ladies to women, transforming from babies into butterflies, my daughters never lose their curiosity or sense of wonder... and that they never stop teaching me.

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