Two weeks ago, we had welcomed our new monarch caterpillars. One has since emerged into a beautiful butterfly, set free and flown away. Its transformation and visible struggle as it had transformed into a chrysalis and again as it had to break through the same chrysalis to emerge as a butterfly brings to mind a story. The story of the butterfly’s struggle:
Once a little boy was playing outdoors and found a fascinating caterpillar. He carefully picked it up and took it home to show his mother. He asked his mother if he could keep it, and she said he could if he would take good care of it.
The little boy got a large jar from his mother and put plants to eat, and a stick to climb on, in the jar. Every day he watched the caterpillar and brought it new plants to eat.
One day the caterpillar climbed up the stick and started acting strangely. The boy worriedly called his mother who came and understood that the caterpillar was creating a chrysalis. The mother explained to the boy how the caterpillar was going to go through a metamorphosis and become a butterfly.
The little boy was thrilled to hear about the changes his caterpillar would go through. He watched every day, waiting for the butterfly to emerge. One day it happened, a small hole appeared in the cocoon and the butterfly started to struggle to come out.
At first the boy was excited, but soon he became concerned. The butterfly was struggling so hard to get out! It looked like it couldn’t break free! It looked desperate! It looked like it was making no progress!
The boy was so concerned he decided to help. He ran to get scissors, he snipped the cocoon to make the hole bigger and the butterfly quickly emerged!
As the butterfly came out the boy was surprised. It had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. He continued to watch the butterfly expecting that, at any moment, the wings would dry out, enlarge and expand to support the swollen body. He knew that in time the body would shrink and the butterfly’s wings would expand.
But neither happened!
The butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings.
It never was able to fly…
As the boy tried to figure out what had gone wrong his mother took him to talk to a scientist from a local college. He learned that the butterfly was supposed to struggle.
In fact, the butterfly’s struggle to push its way through the tiny opening of the cocoon pushes the fluid out of its body and into its wings. Without the struggle, the butterfly would never, ever fly.
The boy’s good intentions hurt the butterfly.
As our children go through life, and school, keeping in mind that struggling is an important part of any growth experience. In fact, it is the struggle that causes them to develop their ability to fly, to soar and achieve what initially seems impossible.
It was a bittersweet feeling as we watched our butterfly fly away. In this cocoon-like state that is created, our children can mature at their own pace in their own struggles. And as the laws of nature would have it, if nothing obstructs their struggle, they will fly. Freedom to be exactly who they are meant to be is the greatest gift we can give our children and in this allowing so do we set others free. This is the beauty in good-bye.