Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Megadeath in the Butterfly House

A nearby town constructed a butterfly house a couple of years ago. It's a nice place to take my nieces for an afternoon and I often go there by myself to take photos.

Since many of the butterflies are not native to this area there are stringent rules laid down by the U.S.D.A. The entrance and exits have an airlock room. Before you leave the space you're examined to make sure there are no butterflies trying to bust out and cause havoc on the prairie.

It's not a huge space but there's a bench where you can sit and watch these creatures engage in behavior such as puddling. Last season they hosted about 17,000 visitors and many of those were children. It's a great educational opportunity, but only if we want to educate our children and not simply entertain them.

Someone I know home schools her children and one of their activities is to read a farm blog. Her goal is to educate her children in how food is grown, how livestock is raised and what goes on in the day-to-day operation of a family farm. This includes the losses. Livestock die due to many reasons and farm kids grow up with a realistic view on this aspect of the natural world.


Not so, it seems, in the butterfly house.

It was a hot afternoon when I decided to stop and capture some photos. I left my donation and entered through the airlock room. The sun filtered through the mesh screen covering the hoop structure, giving me the perfect lighting. It was hot and I'd skipped lunch which meant I was feeling crabby.

A number of moms arrived with their children in tow. One of the women insisted on using her child's name in every breath she took, and his name assumed an annoying quality.

"Look, McIntire, look! The butterflies are at the edge of the pool, McIntire. What do you think they're doing McIntire?"

She insisted on continuing this conversation even though little McIntire was obviously not listening.

"Oh look, McIntire, the butterfly has landed on your shoulder!"

At this point the young college student who was working in the butterfly house reminded the mother that the butterflies shouldn't be touched. Luckily the child listened.

The mom asked question, hoping to enlighten her son on the future of the butterflies. She turned to the college kid and asked, "What happens to these butterflies in the wintertime? Where do you send them?"


The poor college kid looked at me, and I looked at him in astonishment. What's he gonna say? At this point the heat has gotten to me big time and I want to turn to little McIntosh and say,


Did I mention I was hot and crabby?

Discretion being the better part of valor, I kept my mouth shut and turned to watch how the college student would handle this. Maybe he'd tell McIntire that they're all sent to Miami to hang out with blue haired ladies.

"Well, ma'am, butterflies only live for two, actually they die."

The word "die" had barely left his lips when the mom leapt forward to cover her son's ears. No, no.....little McIntire can't hear the terrible words...the butterflies DIE.

The college kid seem astounded by her actions.

I was not.


Mike Riley said...


Although I have no children, I agree with your observations. Parents are frequently guilty of sheltering their children too much, keeping too many "dreadful" facts away from them. I understand your not blurting out the facts of death to McIntire. But I also understand why you wanted to.


Chris is *Refining Life* said...

I admire your restraint. Not sure I could have contained myself...

Knowing how short-lived all those beautiful butterflies are might have given the kid a new/better appreciation for them and for the wonderful opportunity the Butterfly House provides!

Simple Answer said...

She sounds like the definition of a hovering parent. The kind that will probably insist on being part of the college interview, the job interview, the spouse interview...

In a strange way, I kinda get the mom's reaction. You want to keep your kids as innocent as you can for as long as you can. Death can have a very dismal effect on innocence.

Heather said...

I would've wanted to whisper to McIntire that the butterflies die in a scary, evil witch kind of way. Is it wrong that I would've craved to shatter his innocence like that??

I get on a soapbox with this because I think too many parents coddle their kids and then those kids grow up to be overly curious adolescents. Danger!

Cindy La Ferle said...

Much agreed. Helicopter parenting isn't good for kids or parents, in the long run. The more we can prepare kids for the real world, the better they'll do, eventually.

Beautiful photo, by the way, Suzanne.


You are just too funny. I will say this: Thank goodness we weren't there together.

Kari (GrannySkywalker) said...

I think little McIntire's mother's crazier sister was at Mount Rushmore when we visited recently. Her precious little darlin' was taking a rock and scratching the fool out of the "information boards" scattered along the pathway and the mother couldn't seem to bring herself to simply remove the rock from her daughter's hand. No, no, no. The mother and daughter proceeded to engage in a somewhat ridiculous looking wrestling match over the rock while the kid (who looked to be about 10) was screaming "no, you can't have it, it's my rock!" the whole entire time. I know it would have damaged that young lady's self-esteem if her mother had taught her any sort of discipline over the years, but - had this fit occurred in front of me during one of my many "hot flash" moments, I might have damaged much more than that. As it was, my family and I were forced to delay our tour of the monument until that charming little family had moved out of earshot. Geez.

Okay, now that I've gotten THAT off my chest, let me say that your butterfly place sounds wonderful. And kids SHOULD be taught the circle of will save them from untold grief and pain later on in life when it truly smacks them in the face.


Brittany Iverson said...

I loved your comment on Liberty Post. Well said.


Suzanne said...

Mike - I believe that death can be explained in the context of the natural scheme of things. We're the ones that put the heavy onus on the subject.

Chris - I wish you'd been there with me! I agree that it was an opportunity and that the mom missed the focus.

SA - I believe in the beauty of innocence but farm kids just accept this as a fact of life.

Heather - I think our kids can accept more truth than we give them credit for.

Cindy - You've state an important point. We need to PREPARE them for the real world, not PROTECT them from the real world. The photo was taken in my garden a while back. I couldn't find any of my butterfly photos. (I have over 10,000 images....somewhere)

My buddy the Liberty Editor - Where were you when I needed you? Seriously.

Kari - OMIGOSH. I would have bitten my tongue off. It probably doesn't do any good to speak to the child or the parent. Some people just don't get it. But I think the park rangers might have had something to say about her behavior.

Brittany - I see lots of wonderful things in the blogosphere and some frightening behavior also. Lots of train wrecks waiting to happen. Honestly, I'm waiting for someone to be sued. That will ensure some blogging ethics.

meg said...

The saddest part is Mom really thought that they "sent" the butterflies away for the winter; I mean, really, did you pay attention in biology?
I admire your restraint, heat or not- after the 427th "McIntire", I would've gone off my trolley :-)

Gabi said...

Good Grief....!!! Oh my! Shall I name my next child McIntire?? LOL I like your blog....keep it real!

Suzanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suzanne said...

Meg - I KNOW...the college kid was looking at me like...WHAT? Does this woman really think we round them all up and send them somewhere for the winter?

Gabi - Don't do it. Seriously, don't.

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Oh you're too funny! Poor little McIntire, he's gonna have quite the life.

GemStateMom said...

Living on the farm with animals is a major reality check for children.

We are raising a heifer right now for the freezer. We broke the cardinal rule and named her...Una (her ear tag number 001).

And we talk to the kids about the delicious Una-burgers and Una-steaks we will enjoy this fall and sense in hiding the fact that Una has a purpose and that is to fill their hungry tummies the same way that all the veggies that are now sprouting in our garden serve the same purpose.

I am determined that my children shall not grow up thinking life comes neatly packaged in foam trays with cellophane wrappers - carefully sanitized from the gritty reality that comprises every day existence. It doesn't have to be joyless or without wonder and gratitude, but it does need to be real.

Rhea said...

ROFL Poor kid. He needs to know about the circle of life. He's got a looong road ahead of him with that mom.

Cookie said...

I'm a SITS girl. That is really too funny! Poor butterflies!

Rue said...

Good morning Suzanne :)

This story cracked me up. Parents often annoy me, so I try to avoid them LOL

I believe in brutal honesty with my kids and although sometimes I've been known to lie so that tears didn't ensue, on most occasions I feel that honesty is the best policy. I'm the parent of the kid that is most parents worst nightmare. My kids know more than they probably should, but better to hear it from me than one of their friends that have been told a fib. IE, getting pregnant from a toilet seat ;)

Btw, I loved that you filmed that house for little ol' me. I watch the house moving show on HGTV and I sit on the edge of my seat every time. Even if the house doesn't make it (it always does) I'm still happy that they're trying. It gives me hope :)


Liz said...

I'm laughing so hard at your story! Butterflies DIE, McIntire!

willzmom said...

The ONLY thing better than this story is being trapped, on a plane, for 4 hours, with a parent that uses the childs name everytime they speak to them! Life is great ain't it!