24 August 2009


I remember the moment I became a mother. I didn’t expect it, because all through my first pregnancy I had thought of myself as a mother. I knew there was a child growing inside me, so that made me a mother. Right?

But it was a very difficult time in my life, with a tremendous amount of stress, and I perhaps hadn’t really absorbed the idea of “a child” quite as much as I believed.
I laboured for 54 hours to bring Monkey #1 into the world, and the moment when he finally slid into the cool blue light of my bedroom, and was laid in my arms, I remember looking down and thinking “Oh my goodness, it’s a baby In that moment, I metamorphosed into a different type of being, and my new life as “mother” began.

One of my favourite memories from when I was a small, home-schooled child is hunting through patches of milkweed for monarch caterpillars. We were frequently successful, and would take the caterpillars home with plenty of milkweed, to watch them grow, turn into a chrysalis, and become butterflies. The thrill never wore off, and it’s something I have been looking forward to sharing with my children. All last summer, I hunted through milkweed patches, and never found a single caterpillar.

This summer I haven’t had much time for hunting. Milkweed is pretty scarce in my neck of the woods, and with travel and whatnot there just hasn’t been time. It wasn’t even on my radar screen, really. I was planning to start homeschooling this fall, and being on the teacher end of things has me pretty stressed out. We went to the IAHE convention in Indianapolis, and came home totally overwhelmed. No matter how many times I repeated “this is simple, he’s barely in kindergarten, I don’t have to worry about Algebra yet,” my subconscious screamed back “BUT YOU SHOULD AT LEAST HAVE A PLAN!!!”

Saturday I suddenly decided that Monday was The Day. We would begin school, for better or worse. I went out and bought some posters to hang up in the dining room schoolroom, got a clock, and eyed with increasing trepidation the mountainous pile of teaching materials I have accumulated in anticipation of this day. I had no plan. I was terrified.

Then Monkey #1 called me out to the yard to look at a strange caterpillar he had found. Now, it has been a long time since I’ve seen a monarch caterpillar, but I know they only live where there is milkweed. But maybe, I thought, we could find out what this was, and raise it, and the monkeys could have that neat experience of watching the butterfly hatch. So I googled, “caterpillar green yellow black stripes ‘black horns.’” And came up with a picture, but no name. So I called my mother, who will probably be chasing the angels down in heaven to share the neat thing she just learned, and asked her to look it up in one of her field guides. And it was a monarch.

Miles from any milkweed, in the middle of our backyard, at a point in my life when I’m getting ready to metamorphose, yet again, into something new and unknown, a precious memory from childhood was handed to me to pass along to my own children. And I think I heard a still, small whisper say “Relax, you’ll do just fine. This is going to be a transformation that you can't even imagine yet.”

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