I’d like to start out by letting you guys know that I am not a nature person. At all. I appreciate that nature is a thing, and that we need it and should live our lives in a way that supports its continued existence.
That being said: I want absolutely no fucking part of it.
I do not camp. I do not hike. I’m not sure why people would voluntarily walk through the woods for no reason other than for the experience of walking through the woods. Now when I say “nature,” I don’t necessarily mean animals. I LOVE animals. Give me a zoo, a petting farm, hell, even a pet store any day. It’s mostly the outdoors and the nitty-gritty of the natural world that I do not want. I don’t need bugs or trees or anything like that fucking up my flow. I’m not an outdoor cat; I’m an indoor cat. Give me a good ol’ fashioned window to look out and I’m happy.
About a month ago, Bella found four little caterpillars on Rob’s dill plants. Bella is pet crazy right now, and she LOVES bugs. Every day, she tells me what kind of pet she’s going to have when she turns seven years old. Seven is the magical age in our house where a child can officially own a pet. This is mainly because Phaedra was seven when we stupidly agreed to buy her a hamster. This is how we create our parenting philosophies. We are open to suggestions on how to improve this process.
Anyways, Bella flipped out over these caterpillars. I mean, we’ve found toads and all sorts of other nature-esque things in our backyard before (“we” meaning “Rob and everyone else in the house except for me”), but these were CATERPILLARS! JUST LIKE IN THAT BOOK YOU READ ME, MOM! All four bells were going off in that kid’s head when I got home from work and received the good news that WE FOUND CATERPILLARS IN DADDY’S GARDEN! THEY’RE MY PETS I’M GOING TO GO GET MY PET CARRIER THAT GRANDMA BUY ME WHEN WE WENT UP NORTH TO VISIT HER AND THEY’RE GOING TO LIVE IN MY ROOM AND EAT LEAVES AND GET SOOOOO BIG! I’LL BE RIGHT BACK! STAY RIGHT THERE, MASH!
Considering the fact that she’d already named one of the caterpillars “Mash,” we knew we either needed to get with the program or get really good at finding stray caterpillars in our house. Rob built a bug barn, persuading Bella that maybe her purple plastic pet carrier that came with her little stuffed dog was not exactly the most enclosed area to keep a herd of caterpillars. He then gathered up the caterpillars and inserted them into their new enclosed home with a bunch of dill leaves and set it on Bella’s dresser next to the window.
Rob did all this, because I was somewhere else, actively avoiding nature. I do not do nature. Especially not nature that is now in my house.
But, they were kind of cute. They were little green and black caterpillars that slowly marched around the cage, constantly eating or looking for more food. Slowly, I got on board the caterpillar train. I mean, they eat dill, for fuck’s sake! How adorable is that?! Rob and I both starting researching caterpillar and butterfly care. Rob found out we were housing future blue swallowtail butterflies, and that they would probably eat parsley as well as dill. Which was great news, because at the rate these guys were eating, we were quickly running out of dill.
Nature! Kind of exciting! Not too messy or annoying!
Then one day, the caterpillars started slowing down. Awwww yeah! I read about this on the Internet. That means they’re going to be cocoons soon! Sure enough, one by one the little caterpillars crawled onto the screened-in roof of the bug barn and slowly transformed into cocoons. Three brown, one green. That part was interesting, because all the caterpillars looked exactly the same.
But, whatever! NATURE! BUTTERFLIES!
Weeks went by, as Butterfly Watch 2015 kept us watching and waiting for the day we would walk into the room and see a beautiful butterfly freshly emerged from its cocoon. One evening, while the girls were “getting ready for bed,” i.e. turning the water on and off in the bathroom and shouting nonsense words while running up and down the hallway half-naked, I went into Bella and Surrey’s room to peek in on the caterpillars. Lo and behold, from across the room, I saw something new hanging from the screen! OMG A FUCKING BUTTERFLY HATCHED AND I WAS HERE TO SEE IT! IN YOUR FACE, ROB! I slowly approached the cage, ready to soak in the wonder of this delicate new creature.
That’s when I noticed the buzzing sound.
Butterflies don’t buzz. But you know what does?
A FUCKING WASP.
To be fair, I knew that this was a possibility. During Rob’s butterfly research, he came across parasitoid wasps. Do n0t Google it. Essentially, caterpillars will be just living their lives, when one day a wasp shows up and infects the caterpillars with its teeny, tiny eggs. But you don’t know that’s what’s happened until the caterpillars win the hearts and minds of you and everyone around you, magically transform themselves into cocoons, and then horrify you when they emerge one night from the only green cocoon as a disgusting, fully-fledged wasp. However, the idea that this could happen to our caterpillars seemed so far-fetched and pessimistic. Even when he questioned as to why our cocoons looked suspiciously like the pictures of infected cocoons he found online, I remained hopeful, finding pictures that showed healthy cocoons that resembled ours.
Nature! Punishing the optimist! Sinking to shockingly disgusting levels!
I called Rob, who was on his way home, and shared the good news. Since the kids were busy, they hadn’t seen our new “pet” yet. Rob recommended I just take the bug barn outside, explain that the butterfly had emerged, and Daddy would set it free when he got home.
“Okay, honey, good plan. I’ll see you when you get home. Love you, goodb–”
“MOM, LOOK! MASH CAME OUT OF HIS COCOON! HE’S A BUTTERFLY!”
“GO WITH IT. I’ll be right home.”
I hung up. Bella stood next to me, staring at the wasp angrily buzzing around the bug barn.
“Mom, it’s Mash!”
“Yup! Sure is!”
“He’s a butterfly now!”
“Uh huh! Great, right?”
“Yeah! And we can let him go outside and fly away to find his family!”
“Oh yes, that’s happening. Honey, go on and brush your teeth, okay?”
Phaedra, who already finished getting ready for bed while her sisters acted like lunatics and caught the tail end of my conversation with Bella, lingered for a moment.
“Mom? That’s not a butterfly.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“What is it?”
“I don’t know, honey.” I couldn’t bear to say it out loud, because then nature wins.
“Huh. Maybe it’s a moth.”
Rob came home and triumphantly escorted the bug barn outside, amidst cheers from Bella and Surrey for Mash and his new life as a “butterfly”.
“Goodbye, Mash! We love you! We’ll never forget you!”
Phaedra smirked and said, “It’s not really a butterfly, Mom. But I won’t tell.”
Later that evening, we stood outside trying to extract a wasp out of a homemade bug barn through a hole the diameter of a toilet paper tube using a stick. Not surprisingly, Mash seemed to prefer flying stupidly around the barn and being an asshole, because that is generally what wasps seem to prefer. At one point, Rob shook his wasp-stick at me and shouted, “THIS IS MY LIFE.”
Nah, bro. This is nature, and it fucking sucks.
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