Wings await, for more than caterpillars

Wings await, for more than caterpillars

Perhaps you’ve heard the story. Two caterpillars were crawling along the ground. They looked up and spied butterflies sailing through the air. One looked at the other, shook his head in conservative disdain, and said, “You’ll never get me up in one of those things!”

Barring an untimely death, the lowly caterpillar, regardless of his opinion or desire, will “get up in one of those things.” It’s the logical and biological conclusion of his creation, his purpose in life.

There are some things in life that are logical conclusions of our creation that no amount of dislike can alter. Some things happen simply because we’re human beings, limited by time, space, and confined to a physical body governed by certain laws and principles.

We will age — despite the bazillion-dollar industry that encourages otherwise. We will wrinkle, turn gray or turn loose of our hair, sag, and grow old — if we’re lucky. Some of us will do so more gracefully than others, but aging is inevitable. As my father often said, “It’s better than the alternative.”

Children, too, come to us as foregone conclusions. They cannot remain infants forever. For parents whose bundles of joys began testing limits the minute they let out their first cry, that’s welcome news. For others whose babies sleep well and never seem to stop smiling, it’s a sad reality.

Nevertheless, growth happens.

Yet it’s a tricky process.

At first, they need us for everything — food, clothing, guidance, love. To push them beyond age-appropriate expectations or give freedom too early can create burnout or feelings of abandonment. But to keep them dependent beyond certain points is equally risky. Knowing where those points are demands the best insight parents can muster.

As children expand their circle of relationships, they join peers and invite significant others into their lives. Sometimes we witness the evidence of our teachings. Do they know how to have a friend? To be a friend? To love and be loved?

Yet, the parent who does not accept this “expanding life,” or who seeks to stifle it, risks damaging that inevitable transformation or its potential.

The parent-centered universe must shift. We have to let go.

I remember coming home from college, busting through our kitchen’s back door, hugging my parents and rattling off my plans.

“Now hold on there, BB,” my father would say, using my childhood nickname. “Can you sit here a minute, just long enough for me to smell you?”

And I would laugh at my father’s strange but memorable way of telling me that missed me.

But our best chats were “after” or “before” whatever bee I had in my bonnet that I had to tend to. He would wait up for me after dates. And in later years, he’d get up with me before my own kids’ hubbub began.

He knew what I’m learning now as my own college-aged son busts through the back door, plans ablazin’. And what those caterpillars soon discover.

But for those wings they were born.

This column was originally published as part of my “Looking Homeward” series at