The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Buzzy’s Happy Ever After

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(This is a screenshot of a video I shot of him on my phone. Don’t judge me..)

When my 4th child (‘Buzzy’) was born, I felt  that it was time to buy a new copy of The Very Hungry CaterPillar By Eric Carle. My other 3 kids had grown up on the story, just like I did, but I had read to them from my very loved and eventually dog-eared, over 30-year old copy. It was falling to pieces.

I’ve never been very  good with maths and numbers so when I ordered it from The Book Depository, I didnt realize it was a giant sized, monster copy. {SIDENOTE: Clue might possibly have been in the title “The Very Hungry Caterpillar: Giant Board Book”}

Anyway, I digress. The point is, I put it away for a while, until I felt that he was old enough to join in with me in turning the pages and finishing the sentences (which is a BIG part of the experience. And believe me, I need help turning these giant pages!)

So, I’ve been reading it to him pretty regularly for the last year or so. I love reading it to him in the same, sing-song way that my mum read it to me

“In the  light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf…”

So we stroll through the pages and we recite all the fruits (he’s CRAZY about fruits, and he marvels at how you can see the front of the fruit through the holes, and then the back of it, with the tiny caterpillar still munching his way through).

And then, we both get just a little excited as we turn the page and we see The-Big-Binge-Fest-Saturday-Page. He waits. I take a deep breath and attempt to get all the way from

“one piece of chocolate cake” until “one slice of watermelon” without inhaling once, just like my mum did with me.

But here comes the whole point of this blog post. Recently, i’ve noticed him doing something that makes my heart hurt..

When he see’s the caterpillar has a stomach ache, he starts to get unsettled. I have to tell him every time “it’s ok, rememeber, on the next page he eats a leaf and feel better, rememeber?” He agrees, and we read on.

“And after that he felt much better…”

But then that’s it. He puts his tiny hand down on this giant book and he tells me to stop. He doesnt want me to read any more. The first time he did it, I thought he was just tired but after the second and third time I asked him “Don’t you like the way the book ends?”. He shook his head. “You want him to just stay a caterpillar and not turn in to a butterfly?” “Yes” he answered.

Wow. Something about this process makes him sad, disturbs him in some way.

He wants to pretend that the cocoon and the whole metamorphosis process never happened. That he goes on a huge, junk food binge, feels awful and then fixes it with a green juice fast, after which he returns to being the same tiny and very hungry caterpillar. The End.

And of course, my analytic brain starts to work overtime. He doesnt want to read about the fact that the caterpillar is going to go through a major and irreversible change. He’s not going to be little anymore, but not only that, he’s never going to be a caterpillar ever again. There’s no going back. He will build that cocoon and when he next emerges he will be an enitrely different creature.

“a beautiful butterfly”

Beautiful? yes. But never the same as he once was. (Let’s not even get in to the fact that I also realised this can be a metaphor for the changes we go through as we transition from childhood to teen years to adulthood. I cant’ even go there right now. Not on this blog post at least.)

And this realisation of what he was expressing made my heart hurt and burst and sing for many reasons.

Ultimately I was blown away that my little 4 year old can identify his feelings and EXPRESS THEM TO ME. My baby is wise enough already to know that he doesn’t want to hear that ending; he finds it unsettling and he thinks that it’s sad. He can express his thoughts and tell me to stop right there. He wants his version of the happy Hollywood ending. He doesn’t care that other people love the butterfly ending and he is protecting himself.

And as I sat processing it, I had a flash of a memory from my childhood; of how I used to feel the same thing about the story. I used to turn the page to the cocoon and feel a sense of dread building up before the grand finale and always feel a little deflated that the cute little catepillar had gone. BUT THIS WAS ALWAYS A FEELING. IT NEVER CAME OUT OF MY MOUTH! AT AGE 4!

My little Buzzy is different. He expresses what’s going on in that little noggin of his, and that’s the thing that makes my heart sing and hurt and burst all at the same time.

At some point I may need to teach him that we dont need to express everything that we are thinking, the second it goes through our heads.

At some point, he wont be a tiny caterpillar anymore.

At some point he won’t want me to read to him anymore.

But for now i’m just sitting back, in awe of my 4 year old little Dalai Lama.

 

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