T found this caterpillar (pretty sure it’s a Monarch) on a plant, got a box and made a home for it with leaves and flowers to eat.
For an entire day, he referred to it as his pet and was constantly checking on its welfare.
“I love him so much, he’s beautiful.”
Late afternoon, he chose to release it under a shady plant because he thought it would have access to a fresher food source.
With me by his side, we picked a plant we both agreed would be tasty.
No sooner than he put it down and we watched it crawl away than a lizard ran over, grabbed it in his mouth and swallowed it.
We both gasped in horror as the realization of what occurred fully blossomed in our minds. It happened so fast and took us a moment to actually process what we saw.
T, sitting cross-legged on the ground, lowered his head and began to sob in genuine lament, tears staining his face and dripping down his chin.
“WHY, Grandma, why?” He said, “I loved my pet, why did the lizard eat him, why?”
Hearing T cry, Dad came out, I told him what happened, and he gathered T in his arms to comfort him as we gently tried to explain how nature works. His sadness broke our hearts, but I’m so proud of the compassionate way his dad helped him work through these huge emotions.
“I hate lizards. I’m going to hurt them.” Although retaliation was his first solution; it’s obviously not one he would be allowed to do!
After a while, and after a mango/black cherry ice cream cone (thank goodness I had made a double batch), he started to calm down and recover his normally cheery disposition.
He’s an extremely sensitive child and this was his first experience with the raw and gritty side of how animals live and survive.
I found two more caterpillars for him (whew) and this time we didn’t release them and they’re still here in his Spiderman bucket, gnawing their way through leaf after leaf.
He doesn’t know they’re only tomato hornworms and that’s going to be our little secret, right?