I had seen it on the porch, a dead moth.  But Andrew was away and I let it be.

Cole was holding it when I came to the door; I saw the curiosity on his face.

But then in an instant the moth disintegrated into pieces in his hands, not of Cole’s doing, but because it was fragile.  And in that same moment, my smiling boy disintegrated into a wailing mourner.  The cry was honestly one I had not heard from him before.  It was a cry from his inside.  I rushed to him and held him as he wept.

Once I calmed him I removed the three pieces of moth.  He continued to weep, and I held him again.

A half hour later we were out for a walk.  He is loving walking and exploring.  And on our expedition there was a butterfly.  It was small and orange.

I thought about distracting him after the moth incident, but surely he would not make the connection between this lively, tiny, fluttering beauty and the dead, grey, lifeless mound on the porch.  And he didn’t.  He watched it until it eventually flew out of sight.

“Butterfly!”  He exclaimed, thrilled to know its name.

Hours later after many more adventures and explorations I put him down to bed.  He is a dream to put to bed.  He loves his crib and snuggles in with a smile and a prayer . . . and then he talks and sings to himself for up to an hour.

One hour after I put him down, he cried out.

I went to check on him.  He was laying on his back weeping.  When I came in he stopped.  He looked up at me and said, “Butterfly.”

I smiled at him, thinking his memory was settling him, “Yes, we saw a butterfly.”

His face scrunched up, and he looked at me in the eye with sadness, “I broke it!  I broke butterfly.”  He looked to me not knowing what to do.

Oh my little love who is not even two!  You are carrying this sadness with you, this guilt, this compassion, this regret!  How can I take it away?

“Oh buddy,” I mustered, “It was already broken.”

After settling him into his bed, he went right to sleep.

And I went and cried.

How do you protect your little ones from hurting?  How do you help them not to internalize and hold on to guilt and sadness.

There are a zillion books on parenting.  We are reading a couple currently.

But nothing prepared my heart to care so much for one little guy and a dead moth.