Butterflies pee blood. That’s what my kids learned today from the Grow-a-Butterfly Kit I bought for them. Actually, since I’m the one who shouted this information while witnessing blood spraying from a newly emerged butterfly’s lady parts (they’re all girls in my mind), it’s probably more accurate to say they learned it from me.
My children learn most of their erroneous facts about science, nature, history, and the cosmos from me. Turns out I shine only with the basics, like answering whether apples grow on trees or underground like potatoes. Though I absolutely have tried, I cannot explain why we don’t have watermelons growing all over our yard after we’ve spat so many melon seeds there over the years. It’s also proven difficult for me to explain how a photo travels from my smartphone to my computer, and the reasons I never wet the bed. This is because (1) I am not a walking encyclopedia and (2) never seem to realize how full of shit I am until I’m knee deep in what’s come out of my own mouth.
If you have a young child, I hope you’re in the same boat. Because it’s not just misery that loves company; it’s ignorance and ineptitude, too. I don’t want to be the only mom who’s a walking, weekly confirmation of her children’s suspicion that, yes, we really do forget most of what we learn. But, come on, how the hell am I supposed to remember what a scalene triangle is? And why? Oh, wait. I know why: Because some evening, my third-grade daughter is going to flop down next to me at the kitchen table with a geometry worksheet, and ask me to remind her. That’s when I will excuse myself to use the bathroom, sneak a peak at our American Heritage dictionary, and come out acting like I totally knew.
So help me, if you’re able to explain on demand to a child how wind is made, why conifers don’t go bald in the winter, or how worms survive after being chopped with a garden spade, I hate you. It only means you’ve got a better memory than most and/or spend too much time on the Internet. And it’s making the rest of us look bad.
As it turns out, butterflies don’t actually pee blood. Some online almanac tells me it’s meconium. (That’s newborn caca, to the layperson.) Sometime later today, probably while putting the kids to bed, I will issue the retraction of my misinformation from this morning. I will swallow my pride and be honest, confessing I had to look it up on the Internet, slowly but surely handing over my authority to Google, slowly but surely revealing I’m not as brilliant as they used to think I was. That’s okay: My preschooler, who witnessed the caterpillars quadrupling their size, saw them climb to the ceiling of their tent, watched them sealing up as chrysalises, and finally saw them emerge a week later as butterflies — he told me today that it wasn’t that interesting watching them come out, that he’d rather have seen them going in.
I may not know everything, but for now, I’ve still got the kids beat.