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Caterpillar Children
Photo: Studiomill
The other day as I drove along a country road near our home, I saw a caterpillar crawling slowly across the road in front of me. I navigated carefully around it so as to not flatten the caterpillar on the pavement. Chuckling to myself, I wondered, “Are there any ‘Why did the caterpillar cross the road?’ jokes, similar to the chicken varieties?”

Going to my favorite web search engine, I looked first for jokes and riddles related to, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” No problem there! Entire websites are dedicated to these silly jokes. However, not one caterpillar version of the joke could be found.

Wanting to get to the bottom of why a caterpillar might cross a road, I learned some interesting facts: Caterpillars represent the childhood of butterflies (called the larval stage). They eat constantly and will increase their body mass by up to 1,000 times their original size, shedding their exoskeleton multiple times along the way to make room for their impressive growth. Due to their soft bodies and slow movements, caterpillars are targets for many predators. Some only live two to four weeks, while other species can live up to ten months. Caterpillar habitats include areas where there is plenty of plant growth, especially of the particular varieties they eat. Many caterpillars live their entire childhood in one place, living and eating on its food source until it is time to become an adult.

Growing Up Time

The facts I learned about this lowly creature gave some possible clues as to why my caterpillar friend crossed the road. Maybe the caterpillar simply chose to move from point A to point B and, in his childish immaturity, didn’t realize the potential danger. Perhaps survival instinct motivated him. Needing food, he decided to move to a new place to find it or else die. My guess is, though, that he sensed his growing up time and left home to cross the road in the process of looking for a sheltered place to transform into an adult.

Like caterpillars, our children spend their childhood and teen years “eating up” the “food” we provide and later, what they find on their own. Spiritual nurture, formal education, healthy food and exercise, work and service opportunities are just a few of the items on the menu. If we help them learn to choose the best of what is available and protect them from the things that may hurt them, praying and giving careful attention to the environment we choose for them, they will most likely transform successfully into healthy adults.

Our goal, as parents, is not to keep our children as caterpillars. If we ask, God will give us courage and faith to let them go. And when the time is right we will be able to encourage them to “cross the road,” take some healthy risks and look forward to the day when, as butterflies, they will share their unique, God-given beauty in ways that bless the world.

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By Nancy Gerard. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines

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