Way back two Christmases ago, my daughter and my friends’ daughters were gifted with African dwarf frogs by another mother guffawing at how all of us moms were going to hate her. She was right. Two by two the frogs were gifted — each swimming in their own mini aquariums, complete with a bamboo shoot, a pamphlet explaining how easy it would be to keep these things alive, and a baggie of black dots labeled “Food.”
One mother refused to accept the gift. Another took hers home and dumped them out in the back yard. But there were two of us moms who decided to give these frogs a fighting chance. I would be one of those moms.
I made it about 8 months. But I have to admit — I grew to love those frogs. Emma Kelly named them Austin and Ally. They had cute little personalities and they’d wrestle and ride each other. They were actually fun to watch! And I swear they loved me. They couldn’t take their bug eyes off of me when I came anywhere near them. And I wanted to make them as happy and as comfortable as possible. I bought a bigger aquarium and put fun little huts and hiding places in there for them, but I couldn’t keep it clean enough. Fuzzy alga was covering everything. I don’t know much, but I know that’s not a good thing, so I went out and bought a bigger aquarium with a filtration system. But that filter just sucked the frogs up and spit them back down again! It was horrifying!! So I unplugged the filter and was forced to use a turkey baster to suck up frog poo. But the fuzzy alga was popping up on their little tiki hut again and the poo was burrowing itself down beneath the pebbles on the aquarium floor. It was a disgusting, ongoing nightmare. With great guilt, I finally went to the pet store and expressed my sorrow to this sweet employee who took pity on me and offered to take Austin and Ally home with him. There they would live in luxurious accommodations surrounded by other little water creatures that would hopefully become their friends. I felt tremendous guilt but even more tremendous relief. I told Emma Kelly that Austin and Ally were staying with the man from the pet store, but left off the part about it being a permanent vacation. Every once in a while, she asks about them and wants me to go pick them up, but I distracted her with a One Direction song. I do hope that Austin and Ally are still alive and well and that they don’t hate me for abandoning them like that.
But then there’s the other mom. I’ll admit it — Tara is better than me. She’s kept her daughters’ two frogs alive and kicking for 16 months! That is, they WERE alive and kicking until today. Tara went to feed the little froggies only to find that they were no longer with us. So she did what any other mother should do in that moment — she group texted.
Should she flush or bury?? Should she let her daughters watch?? And how silly is she for crying over these two stupid frogs??
She took all of our advice and then decided to ask her daughters how they wanted to handle it. The youngest wanted to have a ceremony. The oldest said, “I’ll pass.” So Tara held back her tears as she and her youngest bid farewell to the frogs.
I think it’s good to let kids deal with small deaths like this early on. Unless the good Lord returns soon, death is inevitable for all of us, so I don’t know how much good it does to pretend it hasn’t happened. Of course, I don’t claim to be an expert on explaining death to children and I certainly don’t think I’d win any parenting awards for how I handled the death of Mr. Fluffy Pants.
Mr. Fluffy Pants was Emma Kelly’s first and only beta fish and she loved him all four days before he went belly up. It’s not like she’d developed a deep, meaningful relationship with Mr. Fluffy Pants after only four days, but this was her first experience with death. Could I have handled it better? Yes. But after I pushed her emotional buttons and her very brief meltdown, we went to the bathroom and flushed Mr. Fluffy Pants away to his watery grave. EK was fascinated! And now whenever she asks me if she can have another fish, I’m pretty sure it’s because she’s hoping it’ll die quick and she can flush something dead again.
I just hope I’m home that day when one of the dogs dies………