Butterfly Fight

“Momma, Help!” cried my frantic four-year old. Stubby little fingers tightly grasped a long twig; hanging midway down the branch was a chrysalis. The transparent covering was split and just barely visible were the bright velvet colors of a Viceroy butterfly’s wings. It was easy to see why my son was so distraught; the butterfly appeared to be stuck . . . half in-half out. Its movements demonstrated two distinct attributes for one so small—fight and perseverance.

I tried to calm my son’s fears and explained that his treasured find would not die and that we could not help; it had to use its own power. The struggles were agonizing to watch and together we held our breath, praying this tiny insect would become all that its maker intended.

Butterflies, like our children, begin life dependent on us. Once they move from early life to adolescence, they take on another new look. At about this same stage, the butterfly’s wings grow 3-5 times the length of its own body. The excruciating squeeze through the tiny opening in the cocoon is precisely the action needed to move the gel-like fluid from the torso to the tips of the wings. The great effort it takes to break free is, in fact, the process that fills the wings of the young adult for successful aviation. Without this challenge, the butterfly would be doomed to remain flightless.

Although it remained painful to watch the great struggles, my son began to clap for the butterfly each time minor progress was accomplished. He cheered and coaxed when it appeared the butterfly might give up the fight.

My desire is that my children become like beautiful butterflies and learn to fly strong. But too often today, children are denied the right to struggle. Because we love our charges and want the best for them, we often interfere with or lessen the blow of struggling with the thoughts we will make life easier for them.

As difficult as it is to watch, struggles are necessary to produce the perseverance and confidence they will need in life to be accomplished adults. I’m learning to see that perseverance is the end product of uncomfortably stretching our wings. If I keep my children from difficulties as they grow, I rob them of their ability to soar and potentially curtail their independence. My role instead is to clap when they succeed, and cheer when they look too tired to fight.

Parenting is one of the greatest responsibilities God has given to us and the hardest work I’ve ever experienced. My children have worn out my knees praying for them and yet have given me a history with the Father like no other.

I often, in my prayers, visually bring each one of my children by the hand to the feet of the Father and ask Him, “How shall I help them become all you designed them to be? Show me when to cheer, when to watch and when to stay out of your way. Thank you, Lord, that you love them more than I could ever understand or be capable of. Help them to be only satisfied by you, that all else pales in their lives without you.”

My son and I held our breath as the butterfly finally squeezed itself completely out of what once was the protective capsule. We were awed as the rookie aviator stretched its fully functioning wings. And as if to say goodbye, turned away from us and took flight.

I marveled at obvious tenacity as the newly arrived butterfly flew towards the bright colored flowers without so much as a look back at us. As a tear slowly slid down my cheek, I hugged my son closer to me—as if I could see our future in the butterfly’s departure. My ever-aware-blonde-headed-insect-lover saw my tear and, in an attempt, to comfort me, patted my face with his chubby little hands and said, “It’s O.K. mommy, he flies good.”

*This story and others like it can be found in Seeds of Wisdom for Parents