My four-year-old son Joseph received a lady bug farm for Christmas this year. The day after Christmas we mailed in his certificate for the ladybugs that would fill it up, and he eagerly checked the mailbox every day. A couple of weeks later, a bulky package arrived bearing a huge stamp on the front: "Live Larvae Enclosed: OPEN IMMEDIATELY." (It's not everyday you find larvae in your mailbox--good times.)
We carefully followed the enclosed instructions to the letter. The ladybugs were teeny little larvae; the booklet told us we could expect them to become pupa in a couple of weeks, then full-fledged lady bugs a few days after that. My son, whose heart is extra-tender toward any living thing, checked his larvae many times a day for progress, sleeping with the farm under his bed for protection. And I breathed many little prayers: Please let them live, please let them live...
And they lived. Just as the instruction booklet promised, they shortly turned into pupa, then dramatically, in a few hours, little lady bugs. Joseph was beyond overjoyed. But here is something you probably didn't know about adorable little ladybugs: they're cannibals. Only about half the larvae made it to full-grown ladybugs, so the grown ones crawled around and ate the dead bodies of their peers who weren't so lucky. And thankfully, my sensitive boy just said, "Look, they're playing!" as the carcass feast ensued.
And here's another, um, interesting little factoid about ladybugs: they poop in enormous quanitity. I mean, they're tiny little poops, but they are everywhere. You don't notice this when they're outside crawling around your flower pots, but when they're in an enclosed little farm on your kitchen table where you feed your family--trust me, you notice.
So, the other day, Joseph was carrying his ladybug farm across our entryway. But he had opened the top, for some reason. He slipped on a rug and fell, and the lady bug farm flew across the room, landing upside down on the floor. Thousands of little ladybug poops, and dozens of half-eaten carcasses, scattered all over the floor. The wood floor. The brown, hard-to-make-out-where-the-bugs-and-poops-and-corpses-are floor. The floor my baby daughter crawls around on all day. You see where this is going.
Big brother Stephen came to the rescue and searched out as many live ladybugs as we could find, which wasn't many. But Wicked Mommy had to get out the vacuum cleaner and suck up the poops and the carcasses (remember, he had no idea they were dead because I didn't have the heart to tell him), and yes, a few live ladybugs, while my sensitive boy wailed in the background, "Mommy, NOOOOOOOO!" Now there is a moment for the therapy couch someday.
The moral of this story? Perhaps there is a profound one, but I'm at a loss. I'm coping with the fact that there is likely still much ladybug poop in my entry way, tucked into nooks and crannies. And a traumatized four-year-old boy living under my roof. This motherhood business isn't always pretty, is it?