He was supposed to go to Hedgehog Academy.
He was born for it.
He knew the ins and outs of the expectations ever since he was 5.
His sole caregiver, an Ant, studied diligently and fiercely to get into Hedgehog Academy and not only graduated with honors and scholarships and awards, but attended graduate school as a full fledged Hedgehog, herself.
She was taught transformation. She was taught survival. She was taught to stand tall in front of anyone and everyone, to work harder and be better than any of the other Ants within miles, and half of all the Hedgehogs she had ever encountered. So many of them were so entitled they were allowed to be simply average and she relished surpassing them. She never even admitted to knowing how to speak Ant in front of the Hedgehogs. And although becoming a parent was not in her agenda, as far as detours go, she had done well enough and raised him without much want or desperation (that he ever knew about) and she taught him a little differently than the way she had learned in the hopes he’d conquer the world while still being at peace.
She taught him to love himself. To never hurt himself or others under any circumstances. To be friendly and social if he felt like he could contribute. To take his time and find his passion and surround himself with people who were on his team. And now it was time for him to join the rank of Hedgehogs and have a modicum of respect, not only for himself, but for her effort.
He didn’t want to say no because he knew early on that it would break her if Hedgehog Academy wasn’t on his playlist right away… if ever… so he just went along letting her believe whatever she needed to in order to be supportive and kind. In order to not have her fret and worry. To him she was so fragile. He knew she’d have to let him go eventually.
He told her finally that he didn’t want to go Hedgehog Academy and she did lose it but only a little while.
He was raised differently she had to admit.
He was raised to make his own decisions and to deal with the consequences. She was worried that all that he wanted to be was a pesky old Ant and it hurt, since she had worked so diligently to give him a better life than typical Ants had.
But he was certain that being an Ant was never even an option either and for that she was grateful. She couldn’t help but fantasize that perhaps he wanted to be an Eagle or a Horse. She’d die helping him try.
Then he said without much ado that he wanted to be a butterfly in time.
Just a butterfly.
He was about to do something that she had tried to do but in another way.
She became a Hedgehog so the other Hedgehogs would say she was good enough and it was required really at the time.
But now things have changed enough, just enough, that being anything, including a pretty average flying insect was proof that he could let her strive be replaced by his thrive.
He didn’t have anything to prove to the Hedgehogs or the Goats or even the Elephants.
He knew who he was already and she hadn’t figured that out until she was twice his age, a Hedgehog still for sure but inside, obviously a butterfly as well.
And she cried a while as long as he didn’t see and instead of the berating that she would have received, instead of the ostracizing and ridicule that forced her into the Hedgehog Academy herself so long ago, she smiled and said if that will make you happy, honey, okay.
And although she had no idea about it before that moment because she had never truly known that she had spent the past 18 years learning it-that’s when she discovered what love really was.
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