Our Urban Children

I want to share a story with you.  

On the last week of January, I went up north to see my family for a few days.  Before I hit Massachusetts, I stopped over in New York City to go to a few museums, just be in that wonderful, crazy city.  Went to the American Museum of Natural History; they had an exhibit of moth photos, an IMAX of the monarch migration, and a butterfly house…it was a no brainer, I spent a day there. Remember, this is New York City, this is winter, it was 14 degrees outside.  We were in a fabricated wonderland where the temperature was 90 degrees, the plants were green, and there were butterflies flitting all around overhead, nectaring and resting, covering the lucky bamboo and various tropical plants and flowers that were able to deal with the artificial environ.  

Brought my sketch book, and set up in front of a chrysalis and happily went about sketching.  People came and went.  One young man must have been particularly salty; butterflies kept landing on him, proboscis flicking and unfurling.  A couple of elderly Docents hovered and answered questions.  A young woman came in with her adorable three year old toddler.  Momma cooed to her tousle haired child, “Look!  It’s a butterfly, look! Isn’t it pretty?”  After about four or five minutes, the child’s reaction became increasingly loud, obvious: she was terrified.  She had grown up in NYC, what the heck were these things flitting through the air all around her?  She cringed and whimpered for a few minutes, and dodged the butterflies that came anywhere close to her.  She started putting together phrases about not liking the “flies” the butterflies.  Her Mom tried and tried to engage her, soothe her, tried to lessen her fear…The little child was having none of it.  Her distress became increasingly louder every few minutes.  They left.  The Mom had also become distressed at her daughter’s fear.  She had wanted to share something lovely, gentle, magical and fun with her child.  

This is so sad.  Butterflies are so lovely and generally harmless, it breaks my heart to see a child so distressed when presented with an aspect of nature that should be so enjoyable.  This is one reason why EcoAddendum developed the Birds Butterflies and Bees programming…to get urban kids out and engaged with the natural world in a way that nurtures a positive relationship and understanding of the natural world.  It’s one of the reasons why we support environmental education at all age levels.