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…
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.

“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?
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!”
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!”

“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?