Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Parable of the Butterfly with a Mind of His Own

So yesterday the butterfly that had emerged two days behind its siblings was given the opportunity to fly free, but it remained in the 'cage'.  I presumed that as it was still walking everywhere, maybe its wings weren't fully ready for flying - so we left it until today.  This afternoon, after the rain finally stopped, we took the butterfly habitat out into the garden, and opened the lid, leaving the butterfly free to fly away.  When we did this two days ago, its siblings got the hang of things immediately and flew straight out (just one of them conveniently landing on the net rim so I could get a photo).  This one, however, just flew to the bottom of the net cage and stayed resolutely put.  I daren't try to pick it up for fear of hurting it, so the boys went to find a stick to put in its habitat that would poke out of the top, so it could crawl up to the top of the stick and then fly, if it so chose.  We even put some juicy fruit outside the net, to tempt it out!  The final straw was when Youngest, clearly not understanding and getting bit fed up, decided to pour some water into the net!  (I'm not sure how he thought it would help - maybe he thought the onset of a flood would prompt it to flee, maybe he was testing a pet theory that seemed like fun - maybe he was just bored and therefore started interfering)  As soon as I saw him doing it I dashed for some kitchen roll to soak up the water (fortunately it was only a fairly small amount of water).  Shortly after that the poor butterfly climbed to the top of the net (under the half of the lid that didn't open, hiding in a corner.
The longer it stayed put, the more puzzled (and even a bit frustrated) I was getting: the boys had steeled themselves for it being be set free, but this was turning into a bit of an anti-climax.  The longer the butterfly took, the later it was getting, and I knew if it got too late (and therefore cold), it wouldn't want to fly anyway.  Frankly, it was getting a bit inconvenient, not having it conform to my expectations.    Then the penny dropped, and I remembered some wise words written by a friend of mine about expectations lately (if she had a blog I would link to it, but it's a work in progress...).  Her name is Jai, and she wrote that,
"Adult expectations of our children can be a damaging thing, because if they do not meet them, we can feel disappointed and pass this onto our children, which can damage them for life ... I am a firm believer in the fact that if children are supported and encouraged along their own path, they will grow into confidant and happy children who will feel able to learn and do anything and ultimately this is what will help them succeed in life ... It is not just the school system that can restrict our children, but our own expectations too. Maybe we should come with the warning, “BEWARE! ADULT VIEWPOINT IN OPERATION”! " (Jai Daniels-Freestone, The Freedom Journey, Facebook)
Maybe it's stretching the point a little, but this tiny insect just made me stop and think.  When we got them as tiny caterpillars, it was the one that was always slowest to move (at one point we wondered if it was actually alive) - and it was the last to pupate (it finally worked out what it was doing two days after its siblings), the last to emerge from its Chrysalis, and the slowest to leave its home.  Basically - it was just different.  If insects can be said to be marching to a different drumbeat, this one clearly was!  Sometimes butterflies just have a mind of their own, and that's OK! (It's almost 5pm at time of typing, and it's still not left - the air temperature is dropping, and I'm going to have to take it back indorrs and try again tomorrow - at least it's supposed to be nicer weather then).
Anyway, I'm hopng you've already picked up on the parallels that I was seeing between butterflies and children, but just in case...: Next time I'm looking at my child and getting frustrated because he's not doing what I expected him to - or because his refusal to comply is getting in the way of my plans, I hope I remember our little individual butterfly, and remember that while it is good to offer encouragement in motivation, and it's good to offer physical support, (not so good to experiment when ignorant of needs), you can't force it!  Sometimes he might just be his own person, and if I let him be, he'll get there in the end, in his own time...
For now, I'm going to fetch the net in, put some new fruit in for overnight... and I'll keep you updated tomorrow ;)

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