Thursday, February 5, 2009

Flight of the Butterfly

Hey everyone. I'm having a relatively up day. I managed to clean both bathrooms, mop my kitchen floor and do some laundry. That was in addition to the four hour telecommuting shift I did and the drive to work for a quarterly update from the CEO/President of our hospital. Oh yeah...and I managed to run the dishwasher AND get a shower.

But I'm not here to talk about that. I'm here to talk about the magic of being a three year old boy. I'm here to talk about butterflies, karate and cuddling. These are all things that my three year old, Daniel is very invested in. The karate class is new. He already is taking Music Together - a music movement class. I'm still not 100% positive that he likes it, but we're trying it. But I'm fairly certain he will like karate. He has been very interested ever since his big brother has been doing it and the teacher, Julie, is great. Originally she said he had to be four before he could sign up, but last week she told me that he could sign up even though he is only three and a half. She has been letting him come into the class to do the obstacle course at the end of Christopher's class and she says that he is physically ready. I'm not sure he's emotionally ready for what is involved (focus, following directions, meditating), but we will see. He is so excited about trying it and I am hoping it will help him direct some of his energy. He is a very physical little guy. He was so thrilled when Julie gave him his first ghi. When we got home he put it right away when asked. It's in his shirt drawer, waiting to be removed from the package.

And cuddly! Is this boy ever! He loves to cuddle with me these days. I am eating that up with a spoon. He wakes up in the morning and the first thing he wants to do is cuddle. I am usually (lately) laying on the couch after having said goodbye to my daughter for the day when he wakes up. He comes over to me and climbs right on top and squiggles his way under the blanket with me and we watch SpongeBob. I will miss this when he is older and doesn't want to cuddle with me. Christopher doesn't want his friends to see him kissing or hugging me so we sneak it in right before the bus comes...sigh. He's five. I respect his wishes, but it does hurt. To see that so soon I am pushed to the background. It's where I belong as he ventures out into the world, but for now I much prefer the unconscious cuddliness of a three year old.

The cuddliness is good. Daniel is so open and affectionate with me. I hope that what is coming doesn't inhibit it. What is coming you ask? Well...I'll tell you. Death. Death is coming. Not my death or even his. But the death of his butterflies. That is looming on the horizon and I am hoping to help him navigate this one without too much difficulty. See, for Christmas, we ordered a butterfly habitat for him. He was so thrilled to get it. I figured, since we are unable to afford to keep him in his preschool, we would do some projects at home to make up for it. So we signed up for a music class and we got the butterfly habitat. I was thinking we could wait until the end of the winter and get the caterpillars, and then release them into our garden in the spring. It would be a nice way to segue into the garden project. We could talk about how many living things help our garden. We could talk about how butterflies help to pollinate flowers. It was going to be so great. The package said it took 6-8 weeks to receive the caterpillars once they were ordered, so, in January I ordered them, figuring that we wouldn't receive them until the end of February beginning of March.

Well...we received them three days after I ordered them. Five caterpillars which Daniel named...Turner, Grace, John, Fred and Scotty. They came in their cup with a lid and the food was already in the cup. We watched only four of the caterpillars grow as one died for some unknown reason. We watched the cup fill with "frass," (the scientific word for caterpillar poop) and took pictures of the caterpillars. We took notes and made comments on how they were growing and Daniel said, "They are my pets," when he saw the cocoons. He was captivated by those brown, dried-looking things.

When Steve arrived home from work three nights ago, he went into the dining room for something and noticed that three of the caterpillars had emerged from their cocoons. Daniel was enchanted. He watched them flutter their wings, trying to pump them up for flight. He said, "Mommy, aren't they beautiful? They are my pets and I will never let them go anywhere without me." He watched and helped as we slipped sliced oranges into their habitat (cage). We talked about how butteflies taste with their feet and he laughed (they really do). He was enrapt. He was smiling and happy as he ate his dinner. He asks every meal if we can look at them. He talks about how we can't let them loose in the house or Joey (our cat) or Brady (our dog) might eat them. And he likes the fact that they are HIS butterflies. It's a source of pride.

Then Christopher lowered the boom. "Mom, when are we going to release them?" Do we have to have that discussion now? Can't we just let Daniel enjoy what he has? See, we can't release them. It's only February 5th and it's been averaging about 20 degrees farenheight outside. I had planned for them to be butterflies in March or April. But they are butterflies in February.

I don't know if you know this, but butterflies only live for about two weeks. So they will have to live out their existence in captivity, never really having the chance to fly as nature intended. I'm actually kind of sad about this, but that is the way it is. a few more days I will be consoling my son, I am sure, over the death of his butterflies. He will be learning firsthand about death. This was not a lesson I had intended on teaching him...but he will find out that things are born, things grow and things die. All living things eventually die. I have read how caring for animals helps children to process the idea of death so that when loved ones, human loved ones, die, they are able to cope.

But Daniel is three. I wasn't really intending to force him to face this reality so soon. But face it he will. I will not hide them from him. I will not lie and tell him that they flew away. Tempting as this may be. I will probably give him a chance to say goodbye to his butterflies, to understand that their bodies will stop working and that they will return to the earth. Maybe he will want to bury them. I don't know.

Whatever he chooses, I hope that he will understand that it was still good to love them. To appreciate the beauty of these creatures even though to love them means to suffer loss as well. I hope that he will leave his heart open to loving another creature so unreservedly. So unabashedly. So totally unselfconsciously.

As I sit here thinking about it, perhaps these butterflies will get to fly freely. It may not be the flight that they were designed for, or even the flights that they might wish for, but these butterflies will fly freer and higher in Daniel's heart than anyone could ever imagine. What could be higher and freer than a three-year-old's imagination?

Before I sign off, here are my five things:
1.) I am grateful that three year olds like to cuddle...especially MY three year old
2.) I am grateful that our butterflies are still living
3.) I am grateful for every smile my children share with me
4.) I am grateful for my job
5.) I am grateful for the cuddle time with my five year old...even if it's got to be snuck in before the bus arrives.

And my bucket list for tonight:

1.) Before I die I hope my children learn how to keep their hearts open in spite of loss
2.) Before I die I hope to teach them love is worth it even if it hurts sometimes
3.) Before I die I hope to teach my children they are worth any pain I may endure
4.) Before I die I hope to express to my husband exactly how much he means to me
5.) Before I die I hope someone I know regrets closing their heart off to love

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