I am lucky to live ten minutes away from a butterfly house, in which I can relax and admire these beautiful and fragile creatures as frequently as I choose. It’s a peaceful place to visit, particularly on a rainy day when the sound of the raindrops on the glass adds to the effect. Inside, life continues without interruption and I can be part of it just by sitting still and waiting, allowing the residents to come and find me if I wear something appropriately colorful.
I read somewhere that it takes most species of butterfly about thirty days to engage in the transformation from caterpillar to a winged beauty. Some, like the monarch or the painted lady, have often only about ten days to wait. In that space of time, a miracle of nature occurs. It might not be strictly instant gratification but the rate of change is certainly remarkable. All of this brings me to parenthood, and the anticipation we may carry with us every step of the way along our children’s development. The concepts of reaching milestones and passing benchmarks, while gathering valuable data, can obscure our vision of a child as an individual who will unfold according to a unique pattern.
Some children are “early” walkers. Some prefer to sit and observe family life, possibly emerging as early “talkers”. Some babies adapt very easily into a consistent sleeping pattern while others take months, or even years to do this. While responsible parenting can support children who exhibit some of these behaviors it is quite possible that it did not cause them. A child who walks at ten months may or may not be the high school valedictorian, fluent in four languages and a champion athlete. We will only know where and how this little person is destined to thrive by observing and supporting, but not coercing, pushing and demanding.
Waiting is difficult. We tell children that it is hard to wait. We, too, must be patient and trust that our work is to watch and to guide. May we be delighted with what we see unfolding.