Eyeing a monarch butterfly flutter about colorful blooms is a majestic sight. The butterfly is a symbol of our Creator’s handiwork and His mysterious attention to detail. Their humble origin, as a tiny, hidden egg is forgotten as they morph from unsightly caterpillar into one of the most gorgeous creatures on earth. Their life cycle also draws a parallel to parenting. Parenting involves A LOT of the following: resources, patience, and restraint. Those are also vital for the survival and maturation of a butterfly. Once the life cycle is complete, the adult monarch launches off to find its own way in the world exactly like our children.
Being a parent to four young adults, I have had my share of struggles. I was once told that being a parent was only difficult if you cared. Maybe at times I overly cared. It’s the marathon race you never finish. The paycheck you never cash in. The prize you (at times) wish to return. If Michaelangelo painted “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” I am living it out in human form. Can I get an amen?
The butterfly’s life cycle, like parenting, goes through stages. Its first stage, the egg, is our children during the elementary years. It is easy to define and execute your role as parent and you have relative control over the life of your child. By the second stage, or the caterpillar phase, your child gets heavily involved in sports or activities. You provide all the resources and assistance available to give your child as much opportunity as possible. By the pupae or “chrysalis” phase, your child is an adolescent or young adult being influenced moreso by peers and developing their own ideas. This is where things get tricky for parents. How much to intervene? When to and how? How much advice do I give/ withold/ force? Do I respect my children’s privacy or invade like a Nordic Viking? This is the crucial phase when helping can actually hinder. Just as a chrysalis must be left alone so it can work its wings to push the pupae open and gain strength, our young adults need room to work their “wings” to gain strength. Sadly, helping a chrysalis open cripples their ability to fly. Watching an adolescent struggle is physically painful for a parent, however, not intervening may be the best parenting we can provide.
Observing my own child struggle, manage difficulties only later to realize success is the sweetest of parenting victories. Too bad for the mama monarch- she doesn’t get that satisfaction. She’s gone as soon as she lays the egg.