Lady Bug Lost OR Sage Wisdom from Little Miss

  • Take time to revel in everyday joys. 
  • Give yourself permission to mourn small losses.
  • Every kid needs a pet.

These were the lessons learned in our house yesterday.

Little Miss was both teacher and student.

After breakfast, Elle found a ladybug wrapped in a cobweb on her window sill.

This small and bleak discovery might as easily have been a litter of kittens, if you judged them only on by Elle’s reaction.

I kid you not, she raced upstairs shouting, “I will keep him. I will name him Shirley. I will feed him and make a house for him and he will sleep in my room.”

I don’t think she has seen enough Looney Toons to mimic it. I have no idea where “Shirley” came from. But the overall effect was hilarious!

I felt obligated to inform her of the obvious. As she gently wiped the cobwebs from Shirley’s spotted body, I casually said, “you know, that ladybug is already dead, Elle. The ladybugs are all hibernating until spring.”

“I know. I love him anyway.” She continuously referred to it as “him” or Shirley. So girl Elliot dubbed her ladybug boy Shirley.

She spent the next hour setting Shirley up in a little plastic bowl. She decorated the outside with markers and stickers. She put a carrot inside and about half an inch of water. She carefully folded a piece of red construction paper to make a bed, then added a dollop of paint so Shirley could do some crafts. She found a soccer-ball-shaped bead and tossed it in so Shirley could get some exercise.

Each time she added something to Shirley’s house, I gently reminded her. “You know, Shirley is still dead. He’ll probably get kind of yucky soaking in that water all day.”

“Yeah, I know. But maybe the water will make him come back alive.”

She carried that bowl everywhere. Shirley joined us for reading time. He joined us for lunch.

“I think he’s starting to eat the carrot.” Elle told me excitedly, just before naptime.

“Oh, sorry honey, I think he’s still dead.”

“I know. I just have imaginations.”

I am in love with her imaginations. In the vernacular of my first-grader, I could marry Elliot’s imaginations.

Speaking of my first-grader, she was horrified by Shirley when she got home. “That nasty thing isn’t sleeping in my room!” Thoughtfully, she reserved her outburst for me. To Elliot she offered, “Nice bug house… Why’s the water pink?”

“Shirley’s paint turned it pink.” Elle told her. “It’s starting to get a little yucky in there.” Her tone was matter-of-fact. Her excitement over Shirley was waning.

After dinner (during which Shirley perched on the counter nearby), the kids sat down to write Santa letters. Elliot decided to tell santa she wants “a puppy because puppies are better than lady bugs… especially dead ladybugs!”

Then, just before bed, she declared, “I think I ‘d better throw Shirley away. He’s getting too nasty.”

Surprisingly, I couldn’t tell a difference between the wonderful Shirley Elle discovered wrapped in a spider web this morning and the nasty Shirley that had marinated in carrot stew all day. I was, however, relieved that Shirley was not going to be accompanying us to preschool the next day.

Elle, on the other hand, was full of self-recrimination. Her exact phrase was, “I’m stupid,” for throwing away my friend.

“But Elle, honey, it was already dead.”

“I know, but I liked him.”

She sat sadly on the stairs while we tried to cheer her up with Christmas carols. She mourned Shirley for more than half an hour.

And then, with her small joy thoroughly celebrated and her small grief briefly acknowledged, Elliot moved on.

Somehow, I failed to get a single photograph of these dramatics events, though I marveled at her all day long. Thankfully, Joe snapped a quick picture near the end. Here is Shirley resting on the construction paper bed, plucked out of the carrot stew bug house:

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