The Milkweed Emergency

Sometimes I just have to laugh at myself. I’ve become obsessed with this tiny, squirmy caterpillar. I never thought I would foster a caterpillar in my home. The kids were so excited when we discovered it. They could see nature come a live, right in our home.I figured, it’s just tiny caterpillar, what’s the big deal? Can you see where this is going? Just wait.

The cute little thing ate and pooped. Ate and pooped. Kinda like my kids when they were babies. Soon, it only had one milkweed leaf left. I started to panic. Sophia was worried but she happily skipped onto the school bus in the morning. Jaxson has recently expressed his worry that our new cat Pixie would die (our two cats passed away within six months of each other last year). Now he was very concerned that Caterpi would die.

What’s a mom to do? When your 3-year-old is worried that all of his pets will die, you have to do something about it. Right?

On Facebook, I posted a cry for help. I needed milkweed, and fast! See, monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed, which is poisonous to other animals. That means the caterpillars and butterflies aren’t very tasty to potential predators (See? Science in action). After a brief search around our apartment complex for milkweed Tuesday night, all we had to show for it was a plethora of mosquito bites. Things didn’t seem so urgent Tuesday night, but I had no idea how fast one little grub could eat. My last resort would be reaching out to my local friends on Facebook.

I had to save this delicate, striped caterpillar. The only thing is, caterpillars make my skin crawl. I wasn’t always scared of crawling things. I remember playing with pill bugs as a small kid, chasing singing crickets that accidentally came in the house, even catching dragonflies with my cousins. So what happened? My mother hated insects, spiders, you name it. Living in Louisiana meant those multiple legged creatures were everywhere.

My sister and I weren’t allowed to play with bugs. In fact we weren’t supposed to get dirty. Because girls don’t play in the dirt. Or play with bugs. Those were things that boys do. Once summer an uncle or male cousin gave me a slingshot. I loved that thing, even if my aim was terrible. One day it just disappeared. When I asked my parents about it, the response was, “Girls don’t play with slingshots.” My mom also told me that girls don’t drink alcohol, but obviously she didn’t understand the college party dynamic. Or drive thru daiquiri shops.

Now that I’m a mom, I to give my kids a variety of toys, regardless of its gender stereotypes. Even if Sophia ended up loving pink and princesses. (That’s the universe laughing at me.) However she also loves Pokemon and science. Jaxson is obsessed with video games and music. He also likes wear fairy wings and play tea party with his sister.

That’s why I’m writing this with a giant milkweed plant in my office with a three inch long caterpillar crawling all over it. I just got goose bumps just thinking about it. A friend recommended I call the nature center she used to work at. Every year they put on a huge butterfly exhibit. A very nice conservationist there tracked down a tropical milkweed plant (similar to what we found Caterpi on) and gave it to me. Really. I drove to the Brookside Nature Center, with Jaxson clutching Caterpi in its jar and we met Cheryl. She admired the caterpillar just the right amount to make Jaxson satisfied and sent us home with a 5 foot plant. A plant. In a pot. Seriously.

Every hour, the kids come and check on Caterpi. Their eyes sparkle and they giggle about how much it poops (a lot). They’re learning how important nature is, no matter how small. It was worth a mini-panicked search for milkweed. I’ll deal with the creepy crawlies to see those faces.

Although I’m thrilled it will pupate soon and stop crawling around behind me. Don’t tell the kids, but I’m getting attached to the caterpillar.

This post was inspired by the memoir Raising My Rainbow by Lori Duron as she shares her journey raising a gender creative son. Join From Left to Write on September 5 as we discuss Raising My Rainbow.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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