My Son Used to Be a Caterpillar

4 years ago

Alfie came home from school the other day and joined me on the sofa where I was feeding Miss Olive. Unusually for him, he wanted to talk about his day without my asking.

Apparently they had been looking at caterpillars at school. There had been furry ones in the garden and one had stuck to his friend's jumper and the teacher had had to put it outside.

Now if you think this is a post espousing the value of listening to the detail of your children's lives, it's not. This is a post about how frickin weird life is with children because what Alfie said next completely twisted my melon.

He looked at me, weighing up how I might react and said:

"I remember a long time ago when I was a caterpillar"


Credit: electronicxx.

My brain took that statements and went in fifteen different directions, none of them forward because I'm that parent. I'm the parent who wants to believe, to validate, to indulge even, but right there sitting on that sofa I couldn't think of a damn thing to say.

How do you validate the life of a grub, for heaven's sake? It's not like you can engage in a conversation about life experience: They eat, they pupate, they fly. Finis.

But now I'm painfully aware that I've already been quiet for far too long and there are two eyes watching my every facial tick.


Nice non committal opener, asshole.

"Umm, so do you mean you were playing at being caterpillars or that you actually used to be a caterpillar?"

"No mama I was a caterpillar. And I ate lots of leaves and then I went away and when I came back I was a butterfly and I flew up and up and up"

So right here is where I set out my stall and say that I believe in past lives. I have even had my past lives read before and it brought me a lot of calm when I was struggling with some can't-quite-put-my-finger-on-it feelings. I have long dreamed of being able to ask my children about lives beyond this one and have often asked them if they remember before they were born.

I say all of this by way of qualifying what a bittersweet moment this was for me.

Half my brain is shouting, "PRAISE BE!! AN ACTUAL PAST LIFE CONVERSATION!!!!" while the other half is still stuck on, "What the HELL do you talk about in the life of an insect?!?"

So I asked the only question my brain could form at that given moment:

"So what did you enjoy more, being a caterpillar or being a butterfly?"

And yes, I heard how stupid that question sounded, so when Alfie gave me a withering look and replied in a voice that said this was the single stupidest question he had ever answered, I wasn't surprised.

"A butterfly mama. Because then I could fly"

And just like that, he got up and ran off to play leaving me wondering, and not for the first time, what the hell had just happened.


​Mum, activist and parenting junkie. Passionate about empowering women and living a good life with my family.

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