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Reopening Schools Is a Test That We’re All Failing Together

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In working through what to say to my children about school in the fall, I remember that butterflies’ hearts are in their wings—and how I came to know this a decade ago.

My daughter’s hand curled up in a fist in my hand just as we reached the school’s front door. A moment ago, our clasped hands swung lightly between us. We chatted easily about the day ahead as we navigated the thicket of strollers, and we were just a few steps from her official start as a public-school student when she tensed. I followed her gaze and saw the long mesh basket hanging from a hook in the corner. Inside, I could make out a clutch of butterflies darting and gliding in flight. With each turn, she burrowed deeper into my side. Of all the possible troubles I’d conjured, I’d missed this.

It was the first day of the unit on metamorphosis, explained her teacher, who approached with widened eyes that matched my daughter’s. The children had been tending to the caterpillars for a few weeks, and now the Painted Ladies were ready for their close-ups. “Aren’t you the luckiest girl? Today we’re going to meet our new friends. Are you ready?” She was not.

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