She sat in the tree waiting for Booboo. The last time she’d perched in her favourite spot, he’d crawled down the tree to see her, wiggling his way onto her finger when she offered it. She waited and waited for him this time, but he didn’t come. I checked the leaves in the nearby branches to see if he was perched there. “Maybe he had to take a nap,” I offered, but she wasn’t convinced. “I’ll wait a little longer,” she said, “Maybe he’ll come. He doesn’t usually have a nap.” After several minutes though, he still hadn’t come, so I lowered her to the ground.

The girl in the tree was three-year-old Maddie. Booboo was her pet caterpillar – a little green caterpillar she’d found on the front steps one day. Fortunately, there are lots of green caterpillars on our yard these days, and all of them pass for Booboo, so it’s not hard to find him when she wants to play. She picks him up and carries him around the yard. He arches his slim back, clutches her skin with tiny suction-cup feet, and explores the architecture of her arm.

Her older sisters look at her with a mixture of respect and disgust. She offers to let them hold her pet, but they hide their hands behind their backs and shake their heads.

After we left the tree behind, she was soon distracted by backyard swings and rubber balls. I returned to my task of washing the car in the driveway.

Before long, I heard her calling me excitedly. “Mommy, MOMMY! I FOUND BOOBOO!” She was jumping up and down beneath the branch where he was hanging by an invisible thread. “He’s swingin’!” She put her hand out, and Booboo lowered herself into it. “He came to see me AFTER all!”

Proudly, she carried her pet over to me. “Look Mom. Here he is! He wants to watch you clean the car.” Gingerly, she put him down on the ground close to the car door. I sprayed the car window with Windex and tried to step around Booboo as I finished my job.

As three-year-olds do, she disappeared, caught up in some other wonder. But she didn’t forget Booboo. A few minutes later, she called from the steps. “Is Booboo still there?”

I looked down at the ground to a horrifying sight. There lay the body of Booboo, crushed beyond recognition. Carelessly, I’d ended his short life under my the heel of my shoe. Quickly, I brushed his body out of sight before Maddie arrived at my side. “Nope,” I said, “he crawled away. I think he went looking for adventure.” My response satisfied her and she skipped away. Before long, she found Booboo on the other side of the yard. “How’d you get way over here?” she asked her wiggly friend.

So, I ask you, my friends… was I WRONG to tell a little white lie to my three year old daughter? Did she really need to see the broken body of her friend? I think not! I suppose I have a lie AND a murder on my conscience, but that’s still better than breaking her heart.

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