Yesterday, we released our butterflies into the world.
My sister got Grayson caterpillars for a birthday gift and we were able to enjoy the magnificent process (and it truly is just that) of witnessing actual metamorphosis (I’ll also note here that the care for these creatures is surprisingly quite minimal so I would absolutely recommend this as a gift).
When we came home last weekend from an overnight getaway, we were overjoyed to see that our butterflies had emerged from their cocoons- five of them were flourishing and doing exactly what they should be doing. But one of them was not.
Her proboscis (which is a tube, similar to a tongue) was stuck to a piece of chrysalis. And I researched until I decided to gently help her try and ease it off using a Q-tip and a drop of water. Tt seemed to help, but not entirely. She was able to eat but she couldn’t extend her wings. I feel like maybe when she was drying off, her efforts were being spent trying to shake off the chrysallis gunk instead of drying her wings completely (I’ve spent way too much time on butterfly forums to draw this conclusion).
Her wings never opened fully. So she laid in the habitat and while she was able to eat and sort of hop around, she couldn’t fly. I hoped and hoped in the days leading up to her release that by some miracle, she’d find a way to fly. I researched what I could do for her if she could not fly, and considered all options. I could keep her in the habitat and care for her for the duration of her life (only 2-4 weeks, sadly), I could euthanize her in the freezer (I mean I could never, but this was suggested on butterfly forums as a humane option), or I could set her free.
In releasing her with the rest of her family, I felt I was giving her grace. I was giving her a chance to go live life as a butterfly who can’t fly. We filled her up with sugar water and we let her go in a flowerpot full of nectar in hopes that if she wanted to stay there safely and graze and rest, she would. But we let her go be free, as we all deserve to be.
I won’t ever find out if this was the “right” choice for our butterfly. I can only trust myself and know that I chose with truly unselfish care and concern.
As parents, we make hard choices every day, never knowing for sure if they were the best ones. Ultimately, I think, we gain strength in knowing that our goals and hopes are dignified and pure and we also, eventually, trust that we did the best we could and that our children will have benefitted from what we’ve given them enough that they’ll be able to take what life throws at them and live the best way that they can. It’s a lifelong dance of caring while not wanting to hover too closely, in fear that we could damage our broken-winged babies more greatly in smothering them than we could by letting them stumble, by letting them breathe.
I’m someone who often identifies as a helicopter mom (I gasp each time my kids fall down, I wait at the bottom of the slide just in case they need me, and when they’re sick, I sleep next to them to monitor them). This trait is not a choice, it’s just who I am. I wish I was the mom who said “you’re good!” but my knee-jerk reaction is to gasp. Hundreds of times a day (then of course, I follow with “you’re good” and silently pray I’m not making me kids neurotic or anxious humans). My instinct is to stay home all day monitoring a butterfly with wings that aren’t extending and will that butterfly to get better. I’m writing this as I simultaneously consult a mom’s group on Facebook about whether Logan’s recent blinking episodes have something to do with an issue with his eyesight. I worry about Britney Spears’ mental state. I have a really, really hard time turning off my concern. My worry level is always at a ten.
This is a tough lesson for me that I’ll keep trying to learn. Letting my broken-winged butterfly go free was a step in the right direction.