A Lesson From a Caterpillar

It was that time of the year, when the caterpillars were leaving their silk net to search for food before sleeping in their cocoons for about 2 weeks. Rauz was excited to see them in their silk tents hanging from some of the trees in a playground close to our home. She traced them down the tree and to the bushes. Last week, she was taking one caterpillar to school everyday. The kids were over excited to see the caterpillars and some were brave enough to touch or hold them. I enjoyed seeing them but their excitement seemed ‘normal’ to me, something that I always saw with young children. So, honestly, I couldn’t see the magic in their attention and curiosity.

Last Friday, while we were coming home through the same playground Rauz told me, “Mommy tomorrow I have to take two caterpillars to school because some of my friends want to have one too.” I smiled and said, “There’s no school tomorrow , but okay if you see any on Tuesday we’ll take them to school.” Monday was holiday and I thought by Tuesday perhaps not many caterpillars are left ….

But I was wrong.

On Tuesday, we were going to school and of course Rauz didn’t forget her mission, her promise to take an extra caterpillar to school. She said to me, “Mommy, remember? I need to find two caterpillars.” I replied with no particular interest, “Oaky, I look for one . Let’s see if there’s any caterpillar.” I was walking and she was on her scooter. I was looking but without any real interest or excitement. I was even tired of taking these caterpillars to school everyday and was hoping we wouldn’t find one on that day! But Rauz was searching with all her senses… and she found one! Her face was covered with joy. But then how she could carry it while riding her scooter. “Mommy can you bring my scooter? I have to take this caterpillar to school.”  With an upset and somewhat angry face, I accepted to carry her scooter but complained, “I’m carrying your backpack and all these bags.” With a big smile she offered to hold my bags! I was not happy yet. We walked towards the school playground and before getting there we saw her class in the playground. While we were getting closer they saw us coming  and all called, “Rauz!” and then crowded behind the fence waiting for us to cross the street . Four of her close friends started barking like a puppy: Woof woof! Rauz woofed back!! They all asked loud, “Did you bring a caterpillar for me?!” We opened the gate and entered the playground. They all gathered around Rauz to see the caterpillar. She said with a sad voice, “This was the only one that I found. They’re all hiding.”  6 children and  Rauz disappeared with the caterpillar being treated as a treasure to be seen, felt, smelt, and talked to and about.

I paused feeling embarrassed of my adult take-things-for-granted attitude! These children were waiting three days for Rauz to come to school with a caterpillar; and I was blind to see the magic in a caterpillar.  Look how happy and attentive they were, how generous, how curious, … and  me? All I knew was that “Well, that’s just a caterpillar! What’s so exciting about it after all?”

I wished I could have stayed with them, listened and talked to them to learn from them what was exciting about a caterpillar. But at my daughter’s daycare parents are not allowed to stay …

I left the playground watching them taking turn to hold the caterpillar, all leaning to have a closer look … The caterpillar would be the queen of their day … and I wondered what surprized them most, what questions they asked, what theories they developed, what scared them.

And from the research, I know children are very responsive to animals because of our many resemblances and because of our genetic/evolutionary connections. And I know interactions with animals and direct experiences are valuable if we wish for our children to be curious, to be keen  observers, to be thinkers and problem solvers, and to enjoy learning about our interconnections with the natural world.

And I promise myself never to look at the world as if there’s nothing new about it, as if there’s no magic in it, or no wonder is left. Let’s see the world with children’s eyes …

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