Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Learning to look

The girls were so excited this morning to discover a plethora of caterpillars in our front garden, munching away at this plant that I keep pulling up because it is so determined to spread everywhere. 
They named their little friends Ian, Eliza, Caroline, and Jungle Jim. Because he climbs, you see.

I dug up a little Usborne book about Caterpillars and Butterflies, and summarized the salient facts for them, lest I kill their sense of wonder by droning on verbatim.

Then I looked in our Stokes Butterfly Book to discover that these were pipevine swallowtail caterpillars, and to show the girls what they would eventually look like, post-transformation.

Then I thought to myself, "Self, what if the plant these critters were eating is actually PIPEVINE?" So, of course, I Googled "pipevine." And discovered that pipevine is indeed what I have growing so stubbornly in my garden, and that it -- surprise! -- serves as an excellent host for pipevine swallowtails, which develop immunity to its toxin, which protects them from birds. Also, after a couple years, it flowers. I repented my earnest yanking and resolved to make a little more room for the wild things around here. Surely there is a life lesson in there for me as well.

You know what? Before I had children, I never would have bothered to look up all this information, or even to give those caterpillars more than the briefest of thought, even had I noticed them in the first place. It's a well-worn cliché, that little ones make us slow down and take notice, but only because so many parents have discovered this truth. Their unforced delight in the tiny things, the things down low that elude the adult eye, has invited me to stop, to look, to wonder, to take the time to find answers -- not just to "educate" them, but because I really want to know.

Makes me wonder, for the ten thousandth time, who's doing more of the teaching and who's doing more of the learning around here.

2 comments:

Eclectic Mama said...

Oh my gosh! We have that "weed" too! I've been yanking it up, and it sure is hardy. I love the fact that I can do double duty: give up yanking and claim I'm doing something worthwhile, both at the same time.

Thank you, Hannah!

Bear Creek Mama said...

Amen!