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PARENTS CORNER • Last updated November 25, 2017

Why the Butterfly Died

By Julie Loe, B.S., PTA, Director of Pediatic Services

This story was given to me many years ago. It is a lesson I try never to forget. I hope it has meaning for you.

There’s a story attributed to Henry Miller, the writer, about a little boy in India who went up to a guru who was sitting and looking at something in his hand. The little boy went up and looked at it. He didn’t quite understand what it was, so he asked the guru, "What is that?"

"It’s a cocoon," answered the guru, "Inside the cocoon is a butterfly. Soon the cocoon is going to split, and the butterfly will come out."

"Could I have it?" asked the little boy.

"Yes," said the guru, "but you must promise me that when the cocoon splits and the butterfly starts to come out and is beating it’s wings to get out of the cocoon, you won’t help it. It is important not to help the butterfly by breaking the cocoon apart. It must do it on it’s own."

The little boy promised, took the cocoon, and went home with it. He then sat and watched it. He saw it begin to vibrate and move and quiver, and finally the cocoon split in half. Inside was a beautiful damp butterfly, frantically beating its wings against the cocoon, trying to get out and not seeming to be able to do it. The little boy desperately wanted to help. Finally, he gave in, and pushed the two halves of the cocoon apart. The butterfly sprang out, but as soon as it got out, it fell to the ground and was dead. The little boy picked up the dead butterfly and in tears went back to the guru and showed it to him.

"Little boy," said the guru, "You pushed open the cocoon, didn’t you?"

"Yes," said the little boy, "I did."

The guru spoke to him gravely, "You don’t understand. You didn’t understand what you were doing. When the butterfly comes out of the cocoon, the only way he can strengthen it’s wings is by beating them against the cocoon. It beats against the cocoon so it’s muscles will grow strong. When you helped it, you prevented it from developing the muscles it would need to survive."

It’s a story every parent should remember. . .

Handing a child the toy he wants instead of letting him crawl across the room for it or try his best to crawl for it; fulfilling his every whim; loading him down with toys and other shiny beautiful things before he really needs or desires them; emphasizing the importance of grades in school instead of the importance of education. . . all of these things tend to weaken the muscles a child should be developing on his own so that when the time comes to function independently, he will have the strength he needs.

So often, what seems harsh or cruel in nature, is in reality wisdom and kindness for the time ahead.

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Last modified: November 25, 2017