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..to disturb and disrupt to see Christ’s face fresh again...

Butterflies, My Parenting Manual, And The Death Of Freedom

Butterflies.
Free. Wind. Glide. Flutter. Beauty. Spirit. Flow. Color.
But pluck those wings off those bad boys and all you have left is a nasty looking bug that you would step on in a heartbeat if it crawled close to your picnic lunch.
It’s amazing what a set of wings will do huh?

My kids and wife decided a few months ago to start a butterfly farm.
I know the truth about these ugly bugs in disguise.
I walked into a butterfly farm once at some botanical garden in England and about had a nervous breakdown as these winged, hairy monsters with eyes tried to land on me from the north, south, east, and west.
But you know what?
I’m gonna let my kids figure all this out on their own.
And their “farm” is more like a mesh cage the size of a large Elmo doll as opposed to a dark, hot, humid, room where these bugs attack like the end of Men In Black.

Let me let you in on the fact that my kids are animal LOVERS.
Especially my 9 year old. She can’t drive by PetSmart on a Saturday while they have their Adopt A Pet sidewalk events and see a dog without crying at how bad the dogs must “feel”.
I did not know that this would transcend from mammal family to the Lepidoptera family.
But it did.

They started their little farm with 5 caterpillars.
They were cute in a nasty sort of way.
Worming around that little mesh cage looking like every 4th grade recess black top in 1984. It was marvelous.
They slowly made their way to the top after a week or so and began the process of encasing themselves in their worm saliva and liquefying their little worm bodies until somehow this equals birth and beauty on the other end.

They were butterflies for a good week before it before it was time to let them go.
And if you know anything about the Whittakers, it is that we don’t do anything half way.
Go big or go home.
We woke up the Sunday morning of “Release Day” to butterfly pancakes, antenna headbands, and coloring pages to depict the wondrous spectrum of colors on the wings of our soon to be free friends.
Giggles. Laughter. Joy. Colors. Joy. Pancakes.
I mean there could be no better way to get ready for church.
We had a good 15 minutes before we had to leave for church so we decided to get the festivities under way.
I believe the kids had named the butterflies by this point.
They had spent hours staring into the mesh cage talking with these insects.
Telling them to behave and letting them crawl onto their bony little fingers.
I was impressed. Our little farm had actually produced the happiness I thought would escape for fear.
But no. The family was on cloud nine.

We gathered around the cage…
zzzzzzzzzzzzzzip.
FLY FRIENDS FLY!
I swear it was like some scene out of a bad Doors trip.
Puffy clouds. Flying butterflies. Spinning children. All we needed was a rainbow sky.

“OK kids! Say bye to your butterflies! Wish them a good life. You have been good parents to them. They are free now and it’s time to head to church.”
“OK daddy.” they politely replied.
Dang. This morning has made angels out of my little sinners.
We climbed in. Buckled up. And started backing out.
The kids had their faces pressed against the car windows looking for any sign of their winged friends.
“Look daddy! There’s one!”
I looked in the rear view mirror and saw it on the right side.
Fluttering around like a newborn baby calf trying to stand up.
That thing had a few more hours of flying to do before it could fly like the Monarch she truly was.

As I started backing out I looked over my right shoulder and saw her.
Faster than USAIN BOLT on his best day.
Even though she was a good 50 yards away there was no time to distract the kids.
No time to shield the horror I knew was coming.
Swinging my head around to tell the kids to look at me I had barely gotten the “H” out of “Hey kids!” when she hit.
That bird came out of nowhere and right before their eyes, their faces smashed against the window like kids at the zoo…
Juliette the butterfly met her tragic end.

“DAAAAAAAAAAAAAADDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDYYYYYYY!”
“THE BIRD! THE BIRD!!! SHE ATE THE BUTTERFLY!!!!!”
“AGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! GO GET IT!”

Go get it?
Like…chase the bird down?
Of’course chase the bird down Carlos.

So out I sprang.
The robin was in the middle of the street.
Ticking her head side to side and pecking that butterfly on the ground into a most certain death.
Sprint. Sprint. Scream. Sprint. “HEY BIRD! HEY BIRD! LET THE BUTTERFLY GO!”
Did I really think I had a shot?
No.
Yet I got to within a foot of that chick before she took off.
I’m fast.

Juliette was hanging from her beak.
Over the house and away they went.

—–5 minutes later heading down Interstate 40E—–

You know kids. It’s kinda like the Lion King.
Hakuna matata.
It’s the circle of life!
“HAKUNA MATATA means no worries daddy! Not circle of life! WAHHHHHHHH WAHHHHHH Our butterfly is NOT HAKUNA MATATA. SHE IS NOT HAKUNA MATATA!”
Crap.
That didn’t work.
“Kids! Maybe that birdie (I used the term “birdie” to make the ferocious butterfly eating Ave seem less monstrous) hadn’t eaten in DAYS! And maybe she was sooo hungry and needed to eat soooo badly that God let you raise the butterfly so the birdie wouldn’t be hungry!”

“WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”
“WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”
“It Never Had A Chance In Life!!!! Wahhhhhhhhhh!”

I looked to Heather…
She looked back and the look said it all…
We wanted to die laughing because this sort of crap only happens to us.
And my parenting skills are not better than they were for the Elf of the Shelf.

We got to church, prayed for the butterfly’s soul, and sent our kids to endure a morning of singing and dancing about God, while they knew the truth about God now.
That He created birds and scary men with mustaches who drive vans with no windows in the same breath.

Where did that parenting manual go again?
Los

  • francine

    oh my gracious, that story is TOO MUCH!!! hahaha, only y’all would have something like that happen. keep sharing your awesome stories! i don’t have kids yet and it’s so fun to hear real life stories about families (:

  • You lead the most interesting life, Los.

  • Michael

    Oh dear Lord. I can’t breathe! Please release me laughter, and let me live!

  • haha I’m sorry your kids had to face the reality of life with a butterfly they raised. That’s depressing.

    At least your story made me laugh

  • Samantha

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! That’s so awesome! My kids want one of those butterfly kits.. at least I now know what to prepare for IF we get them one LOL!

  • “Scary men with mustaches who drive vans with no windows…” Shiver. I’ll take the truth about the nature of the animal kingdom any old day. Forget the butterfly farm, I’m just impressed you and Heather managed to pull off butterfly-themed festivities on a SUNDAY BEFORE CHURCH. Bro, we make it to Sandals every Sunday morning by the skin of our teeth. 🙂

    • Samantha

      Right?! I’m shoving honey buns into my kids hands as we walk out the door PRAYING they don’t get more frosting on their clothes than a wet wipe can remove.

    • My Wife Rocks…

  • That’s too funny! Seriously, this stuff always happens to you, and I’m so glad you share it with the rest of us.

  • I’m sorry…I know there’s a moral in here somewhere but I’m still trying to wrap my head around the Butterfly pancakes.

    She’s got 3 kids, (well 4 if we count Carlos) she’s gorgeous and she makes butterfly pancakes.

    I think I’m gonna go put a plastic bag over my head and breath deeply.

  • I could sense this story was going to go bad… Oh, I love your family and all the adventures and mishaps you go through!! That is too funny!

    • It always does huh?
      😉
      So true

  • So cute and so tragic! I am laughing so hard at work that there are tears…many tears! Too funny!

    I was a child and had to face a pet’s death after coming home from summer camp. My mom told me my pet bird had died. I asked what they did with him, so I could bury him in the backyard…she tried not to smile and had to tell me he was in the freezer, saved for my pet-funeral. That wasn’t too humourous, but when we got him out he was in a mug box from my Dad’s 40th birthday that said “Over the Hill”. I ended up finding it funny as a child and still laugh over that one!

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  • That’s great!!
    We did one of those butterfly gardens with our kids! only when we released them it was our cat that did the chasing and caught one…carnage ensued!!! daddy had to come the the rescue…all i had to say was…told you it was to early to release them!! luckily 4 survived the cat attack!

    love the Blog!

  • Great story! Lightens the parenting journey to read this! I’m with you on the walk-in butterfly farms– EEBIE-JEEBIES to the max!

    • Seriously! They are gross.

  • molly

    They would have DIED to see the big black snake eat a squirrel in the backyard last year!! Have pictures of it… crazy weird.

  • I laughed until I cried when I read this and Elf on the Shelf. You totally turned my bummer day around. I adore your family! 🙂

  • I. laughed. so. hard.

  • When your kids make it to college-age, you have to compile all of these stories into a book… they.are.hysterical!

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  • My son had these in his preschool class this year. The net was disgusting after the butterflies flew away. I guess they had peed or pooed on the net. Ick ..

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