OBSERVATIONS · picture books · slice of life

Butterfly Update

Said-monarch after "the incident."  As you can see, the butterfly is fine.
Said-monarch after “the incident.” As you can see, the butterfly is fine.

I’ve spent much of the past week exposing Isabelle to literature with bees and butterflies to get her over her fear of both.  (Click here for the back story on this.)  She has been enjoying The Honeybee and the Robber the most of all of the books I’ve purchased.  Seeing as it was supposed to be a perfect spring day today, I decided to take a little field trip with Isabelle (and Bubbe, who happens to be in town) to the Butterfly House at the Hershey Gardens.  A friend, who knows about this little afraid-of-butterflies phase, asked, “How are you going to prepare Isabelle for the trip?  Will you talk to her in advance or just let it happen?  What are you going to do?”

“Pray,” I said straight-faced.

She didn’t say a word.

“I’m kidding! Well, partially kidding.  I’m going to talk to her before we get there.”

I reviewed The Hungry Caterpillar and Waiting for Wings with Isabelle before we left the house.  About five minutes before we got to the Gardens I turned off the music and said, “Isabelle, we’re almost at the Gardens.  Are you excited?”

“Yeah!” she replied.

“Good!  I’m glad.  Do you remember last week how you got a little nervous when you saw the butterflies?”

“Yeah,” she said quietly.

“Well, we’ve been learning about butterflies and as you know, they go from flower to flower looking for food.  They don’t bother people, right?”

“Yes,” she said slowly.

“Would you like to see some butterflies at the Gardens today?”

Pleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyes, I thought.


“Oh good!  Would you like to go and tickle some butterflies?”

“Tika, tika, tika!” she giggled.

Now, in case you’re wondering, I wasn’t going to let Isabelle grab butterflies by the wings!  I just know she would find the idea of tickling butterflies funny and it would keep her in the mood to go and see the butterflies.

“Okay, we’ll go and tickle some butterflies!”

“Tika, tika, tika!” she repeated.

We met up with Bubbe at the Gardens and perused the roses, which are in full bloom.  Isabelle saw a fly and started yelling, “bee, bee, bee!” But, she didn’t tense up.  This is good, I thought.

After a brief snack, we made our way to the entrance of the Butterfly House where I told the woman I wasn’t going to let her touch the butterflies right before I said, “Are you ready to go in and tickle some butterflies?”

“No!” she said.

I stared at her.

“Yes,” she replied.  (She often changes her mind quickly these days.)

Once we entered the Butterfly House, Isabelle looked around.  As soon as a butterfly flew by her face, she grabbed for my hand.

“It’s okay.  They’re not going to hurt you.  They might land on you and tickle you,” I told her.

She relaxed a bit, but as soon as my mom and I started pointing out how beautiful they were, she dropped her butterfly identification card and squeezed our hands.

The lovely volunteer.
The lovely volunteer.

One of the volunteers noticed what was happening.  She called to Isabelle, “would you like to come here and see these eggs?”

“Let’s go see the eggs,” I said, coaxing Isabelle towards her.

“These eggs,” she pointed to dots on plant leaves, “will turn into caterpillars in about a week.”

“And then, Isabelle, they’ll turn into butterflies!” I said a bit too exuberantly.

Isabelle grabbed my mom’s hand as she and the volunteer showed her the eggs, which (of course) Isabelle wanted to touch.

“You can’t touch them,” the volunteer said, “you can just look at them.”

My mom and the volunteer chatted for a few minutes while I showed Isabelle some butterflies.  Every 15 – 20 seconds she’d squeal when she noticed a butterfly flutter its wings and move.

I patted her back and talked in a soft voice as I pointed out the butterflies I noticed.

I’m not a butterfly expert, but I know a monarch when I see one.  I got excited when I noticed one near us.

“Look at this orange and black butterfly, Izzy.  That’s a monarch butterfly!”  I pointed to it.

This time she  didn’t squeal or squirm.  She stood still and observed.  Then, she reached her toddler hand towards the butterfly.  Oh my G-d, she’s going to tickle it.  What have I done!??!

“No, Izzy! Don’t touch the butterfly!”

Before I could get the words out of my mouth or reach my hand up to her arm to pull her hand away, her hand was on the butterfly!  Her fingers must’ve touched the monarch’s wing slightly, since the butterfly began to beat its wings.

And that is when she made the strangest face I’ve ever seen.  It was something like eyes moving towards the right, nose crinkled, and mouth strangely open wide.  And then she made the strangest howl/throaty sound as I shooed her hand away.

“We can’t actually touch the butterfly’s wings, Isabelle.”  Way to send her mixed messages.  First I tell her to tickle them, then I tell her not to touch them.  I should’ve told her to pretend to tickle them.  Parenting error alert!

I looked towards my mom and the volunteer.  “Did you see that?” I asked.

They nodded.  Thankfully the volunteer didn’t lecture me or Isabelle about not touching the butterflies.

“Did you see her face?” I asked my mom.

“I did,” she said, making a face of her own that acknowledged how weird her expression was once she felt the butterfly’s wings move against Isabelle’s skin.

Isabelle headed towards the door.   My mom took Isabelle by the hand and showed her a butterfly in a different place, while I talked to the volunteer who informed me that many kids, and even adults, are afraid of butterflies.

“Really?” I asked in disbelief.

“Really.  I see it all the time. With the kids it’s usually a phase they grow out of.  Bring her back in a couple of weeks and she will most likely be fine.”

“Wow, I feel better now!  I thought it was just my kid!”

“Nope, I see it constantly.”

“Well, we’ll come back soon, then.”

Looking at butterflies with Bubbe.
Looking at butterflies with Bubbe.

And with that I went back to Isabelle and Bubbe.  After a few more minutes, we decided Isabelle had had enough so we made our way towards the exit.  Why not end on a peaceful note rather than needing to carry her out of there.

We checked The Butterfly House mirror to make sure we didn’t have any hitchhikers on us.  And then we exited.

‘Til next time…


11 thoughts on “Butterfly Update

  1. I love this! 😀 You have one very lucky daughter, with a mom who is ready and able to show her the world.

    And no worries about the monarch. They aren’t half as fragile as we assume they are. They fly thousands of miles to Mexico, so those wings are pretty tough!


    1. THANK YOU for your reassurance, Sarah! I appreciate it. I felt SO badly about the incident once it happened. (I should’ve remembered that fact since I read Rylant’s book The Journey: Stories of Migration, which features a monarch right on the cover.)

  2. This brought back memories! My children were very young, around Isabelle’s age, when we visited a butterfly house at the Natural History Museum in London. The butterfly house was brand new and much hyped, and I was convinced my kids would be enraptured. Not so much, though, as it turned out. Livy, our baby, screamed we had to exit hastily. I was so disappointed, I had set myself up for my kids loving this experience of nature. Elizabeth, though, in her wise way, put matters into context. Butterflies are made for flowers not people, she said, I want to see butterflies on flowers…not ME! We went back years later, and this time no one was creeped out. So, there is a season for all experiences, i would say!

  3. Stacey, once again you have crafted a beautiful story about Isabelle and her adventures. I can see this as a non-fiction book, with the dialog as written and beautiful realistic illustrations, and a conservation angle about protecting butterflies, and the monarch story.

    All the best,

    1. And here I thought it was just a simple slice of life. I think you have a point about the book. (Never considered writing about butterflies before…)
      Thank you for your kind words.

  4. Your storytelling in this post was really exciting, Stacey — I was so anxious to see what would happen! I hope she develops more positive feelings about butterflies soon. I’m sure your work with the books will help!

  5. I love the butterfly garden. We make a point to visit each year. What a great experience for her and for you. It is always reassuring to hear it isn’t just your kid that experiences these little phases of life.

  6. I think we all have such assumptions about what our children might like, and then are so shocked when it doesn’t happen that way. I love that you are trying, gently, to let Isabelle experience the wonder of things, Stacey. Bit by bit, I imagine it will happen. This day sounds as if it went well.

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