“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.” -R. Buckminster Fuller.
Our merino-loving kids turned four years old in November. For their birthdays, one of their aunts sent them a butterfly tent with a coupon code to order caterpillars.
We waited all winter and spring before ordering those caterpillars. After all, we didn’t want to release butterflies into our backyard during winter’s chill or during the inevitable spring snowstorm (this year, it was early May when spring’s snow arrived in Denver for the last time).
After months of patiently waiting, we finally ordered the caterpillars at the end of May. Our kids watched the caterpillars double and triple in size before creating their cocoons. We then carefully transferred them into the butterfly tent…and waited.
Every morning for a week or so, our kids would wake up and check on the cocoons. “When are they going to hatch, Mommy?” “When are they going to become butterflies, Daddy?”
And then it happened the morning of their final day of Waldorf preschool. Mama was pretty choked up, seeing those butterflies spreading their beautiful wings. We thought of our own little kids — growing up and evolving before our eyes.
Awhile back, we wrote about the profound freedom of “holding the question,” resisting the temptation to define our children too soon and, instead, giving them the space and time to emerge as their own unique confident selves. As parents, we relate to the urge to know who our children will become; what they will do with their lives; how they will contribute to the world; where they will find meaning and contentment.
But we can never definitively answer what metamorphoses our children will undergo, from caterpillar to butterfly, throughout their lives. We can only set the conditions for them to emerge on their own. We can provide them with tender patience, a home full of love, and a sense of adventure and exploration.
In the end, however, our children just may surprise us. And, perhaps, that’s just how it should be.