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Blood-sucking caterpillars

When we were in Zion National Park recently and while most of our group snacked, Lydia (5) and her cousin Liam (also 5) were looking for a place to call their new secret hideout. Soon, they were frustrated, and asked for ideas.

I led them to a big rock that looked fun to climb on, but Liam quickly informed me that the rock was no good because there was a blood-sucking caterpillar residing on it.

“Well, that’s what Lydia said, anyway,” he added to his tale of danger when I looked at him with raised eyebrows.

I asked for a visual, and after peering closely at the rock for several minutes, they excitedly waved me over.

“See? There it is! There it is!” they shouted.

I almost needed a magnifying glass to see the tiny little worm/caterpillar creature.

“Hmm,” I said. “Yep, looks dangerous. I’m not sure where you can play if this is getting in your way. Maybe you could all try to play on the rock together, though? The caterpillar isn’t very big, and you could stay far away from it.”

“No, no, no!” they shouted. “It’s blood-sucking!”

“Ok,” I agreed, and stepped back. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my daughter, it’s that she can’t be talked into anything, no matter the amount of logic being hurled in her direction. She just has to learn things on her own.

Soon my husband wandered over to the rock, and 3-year-old cousin Charlie got involved in the whole escapade. With everyone gathered around this rock and focused with such intent, it appeared as if the next big story was happening on that rock. Our little group was drawing an audience of fellow hikers who didn’t want to miss out on whatever was going down.

Ryan leaned close to see and touch the little bug-thing.

“NO!” Charlie shouted and reached to stop Ryan. “It will suck your blood!”

Liam pushed Charlie’s hand out of the way. “He doesn’t have blood!” he authoritatively informed Charlie.

Taking Liam’s declaration as absolute truth, the children shrugged, calmed down and allowed Ryan another look. Having seen this dialogue, one of the more curious hikers couldn’t hold back and poked his head in to ask what was going on.

“Oh, there’s just a blood-sucking caterpillar on that rock there,” I told him.

Before the hiker could register what I told him, Liam reached out with one tiny finger and ended the poor creature’s life in an instant.

And just like that, the show was over.

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