Flies and Chocolate

“Mama! Did you know that without flies we wouldn’t have chocolate,” my 8-year-old son yells from the dining room table. He’s doing research for a project on pollinators that his teacher assigned him. It’s part of his new remote learning, part of our new normal. I had hoped he would choose to research butterflies, but instead he latched on to flies and wasps. Now, as his newly minted homeschool teacher, I’ll be spending the week learning about two insects I absolutely detest. 

“One minute, buddy,” I say back to him. The interesting fact that he just dropped into the air is one I want to hear more about but, at the moment, I’m helping my kindergartner spell the word “once” and my 3-year-old open a bag of fruit snacks. This is part of my new normal. A constant buzzing from kid to kid, snack to snack, lesson to lesson. One minute is filled with subtraction with my kindergartner, the next minute with second grade phonics. All of them are filled with questions and hugs and demands from my 3-year-old. 

COVID-19 has turned our world upside down, turned me into a full time homeschool teacher and shut in. Turned me into something I never wanted to be. 

A moment later with my younger two situated, I turn my attention toward my son. 

“Ok, Buddy, tell me about the flies and the chocolate,” I say. 

He turns his big brown eyes toward me, eager to share his new knowledge. “They pollinate cocoa trees! That’s where chocolate comes from so without them, we wouldn’t have any chocolate.”

I look at the paragraph on the screen that he’s pointing to and read. He’s right. Flies do pollinate cocoa trees. They also pollinate over 100 other plants. Who knew? 

I see flies and wasps as pests. They’re disgusting and irritating and harmful, completely unwanted by me. I spend my summers nagging my children to close the screen door in an effort to keep those terrible things out of my house. Inevitably they get in, though. Inevitably, I stalk around my house with a rolled up magazine, ready to strike the buzzing creatures down. 

But I spend my summers in other ways, too. I spend them smelling flowers and baking cookies. I spend them watching my children do the same. The images of my daughter bending down to pick a daisy or my sons with chocolate smeared on their faces are some that permeate my memories. They beam out like sunshine, warming me with their essence. The very essence of childhood. 

Now, I look over at my son. He’s writing down the facts he’s learned about flies. I’m supposed to check them for spelling and punctuation and then have him turn them into a project. The idea that my children’s education is in my hands is overwhelming to me. I didn’t choose this. I don’t feel qualified for this. 

There have been days when all of the upheaval, the closures of schools, the stay-at-home orders, the virtual church and family Facetime have brought me to tears. I have spent stolen moments hiding in my closet so my kids don’t see me crying. This moment feels too big. Feels too heavy. Feels too demanding. 

It all feels irritating and harmful and is completely unwanted. 

But today, I learned about the flies and the chocolate. That something I can’t stand creates something I crave. That if we didn’t endure the buzzing of the flies, we couldn’t enjoy the sweetness of chocolate. 

Today, I was reminded that sacrifice and blessing, irritation and enjoyment, frustration and breakthrough are usually two sides of the same coin. 

Yes, I’ve spent my days doing things I never chose to do, but I’ve also spent them watching things I’d never get to see. Virtual church services with my children singing worship songs beside me. Virtual game nights with friends. Virtual worship nights with my extended family. My children playing for hours on end in the backyard. My husband working from home. 

The world around us is buzzing with fear and anxiety and uncertainty, but we are experiencing the sweetest parts of life in unexpected ways. 

What was intended to harm us, can be used for our good. After all, if flies are to thank for chocolate, then certainly this disaster can produce something rich and sweet and satisfying within us. 

Originally posted on “The MOPS Blog

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