If you do a Google search for “caterpillar to moth”, there are nearly 150,000 videos. And there are almost half a million videos of caterpillars turning into butterflies! This morning, I watched one of these with two of my kids.
As we watched, I was reminded of the caterpillar that my son had brought home last summer. He had found it in the big, fat, light green stage, right before it would become a chrysalis. Just like in the children’s classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, our little friend ate and ate and ate until one day, we found in place of the caterpillar a funny little grey chrysalis. We “oohed” and “ahhed” over it and were excited to see what would come out.
After placing it in a relatively quiet part of the house, we mostly forgot about it.
It was over two weeks when one day, I noticed that the chrysalis was starting to quiver! But the quivering would begin and then subside again, and it wasn’t until much later that the butterfly actually emerged. Having watched that process in real life was interesting and fun.
This time, as we watched a time-lapse video of a caterpillar turning into a rare Chinese Luna moth, we were able to see much of what we missed. For the most part, this seemed to be a whole lot of wriggling. The caterpillar seemed to either be eating or to be shedding its skin. At one point, it even seemed to have shed its face! Once the caterpillar went into a cocoon, the video showed us – so miraculously – what was happening on the inside! We saw the caterpillar turn darker and darker in color. Even inside its silken nest, it was constantly wriggling.
Afterward, my 10-year-old daughter and I reflected on what we just watched. I noted that it was constantly wriggling and coming out of its skin and how we might think of what happens in our own lives. In a sense, we’re always wriggling or struggling, through life but if we have the mindset of becoming better, we’re then working towards becoming something more beautiful.
I also shared with her something I had read earlier: in the wriggling, the caterpillar was gaining the strength and muscles for the next part of its life. If the moth didn’t have the chance to wriggle and develop its muscles, it would be too weak to get to the next stage. Even in the cocoon, the moth is wriggling as part of a process where the wings are flexing and building the capacity to eventually fly.
Having the image of the moth – in its rare and delicate beauty – we can also have some inkling about our own vision for life. Our “wriggling” is what allows us to develop our hearts, our virtues, and expand our ability to give to those in our family, community, and the world around us. We don’t want to stay as those hairy, squirmy, hungry caterpillars! And I don’t think it’s a mistake that those ugly caterpillars turn into gorgeous, ephemeral flying creatures. Perhaps God, in His infinite wisdom and loving design, through the caterpillars is giving us a visual lesson about personal growth and transformation.
If we know what’s possible, we can run towards the challenges, the “wriggling” and difficulties of life with gratitude and humility.
Side note: Especially as my 10-year-old edges towards adolescence and young adulthood, it has become more and more important for my husband and me to seek out different ways to teach life’s lessons. Where I used to use short stories and fairytales – and still do with my younger kids – I find that these more detailed, scientific, and natural world resources are a rich source of educational content as her knowledge base and mind blooms and expand.
This conversation is a good segue to begin to talk about the next stage of a young child’s life: adolescence. We can prepare our children to begin to think about what will begin to happen physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually as they enter into the next phase. When we explain the physical changes as something that prepares us for the next stage of young adulthood and family, the awkward and uncomfortable stages of adolescence might become less troubling for both the child and the parents.
Here’s another short but amazing video about a caterpillar that turns into a butterfly that gives another look into God’s loving and beautiful design.