Archive for » May, 2010 «


I’m not quite a young mother. I was 34 when I had Joe. And until my husband and I decided we wanted one, I didn’t pay much attention to children. I did, however, have a lot of opinions about other people’s parenting. So when I got pregnant, I knew all the things I wasn’t going to do.

  1. I was never going to lie to my child (and that included Santa, the Easter Bunny, and politics).
  2. I wasn’t going to let my child watch television for more than two hours a day.
  3. I wasn’t going to change my life to revolve around my child’s and thereby stagnate my own growth.
  4. I wasn’t going to have a child so insecure that he or she would have piercings on their face, blue hair, or any other ridiculous cry for attention.
  5. My child was going to be a reader! Preferably at birth.
  6. I was not going to let my child watch violence but then get all bothered by sex during those two hours of television a day.
  7. Becoming a parent would not be an excuse to wear sweats all day or leave the house in my pajamas.
  8. My child would not enjoy bodily function humor.
  9. I would not shelter my child from the reality of death, especially the death of pets.

OK, everyone, stop laughing!

Some of these went out the window the day my son came home from the hospital. (Hell, at least one of these got kicked to the curb during pregnancy.) Others made it for a few years. But that last one held fast until this week.

We’ve had pets die during Joe’s lifetime. We had a slew of very old pets when he was born. Those pets lived to be very very old and died right during those early formative years. We’ve had to bury, flush, or spread ashes for three dogs, one cat, a bunch of fish, and various worms, lady bugs, and roly polies. Every one of these pets got a funeral of some sort. We cried over dogs, mourned cats, and said solemn words above the toilet bowl for fish.

But I never lied. I never hid a corpse or attempted a sneak replacement. Not until last week. And last week I did both.

In my defense, I still wasn’t trying to protect my son from death. That ship has been lit on fire and sent to sea. No, my motivations are, well, murkier.

It all started with Nic. Nic is in Joe’s third-grade class. He’s a nice kid, smart, a little shy, a little sly, but maybe most importantly, tiny. I hate to admit this last part is important to me, but it is. Joe is tiny. He’s 9, but the size of a 6-year-old. I’m tiny, the size of a 16-year-old. That’s all well and good for a girl, but ask any of my guy friends and they’ll tell you it sucks to be a tiny male. (OK, this stuff about tininess, that’s probably grist for another mill. For now, let’s just say I like the idea of Joe not feeling quite so alone with being small.)

Nic has come over to our house a few times, but two weeks ago he came to spend the night. Ah, the friendship was getting serious. At last. Nic was the first boy from Joe’s class to come for a sleepover. Joe has a gaggle of cousins his age, and most weekends we have one, two – or five – at our house. It was about time he broke out past those familiar walls.

As they were playing in the backyard, the two decided they wanted to clean out the mucky pool that has been collecting snowfall and rain and leaves and dirt all winter. I think they figured if they cleaned it out, we could fill it and they could swim. This plan did not take into account the fact that the dog had been jumping into it and puncturing the bottom or the fact that snow was still a daily threat or the fact that filling it with the hose meant water cold enough to shrivel apples let alone little boy parts. But if they wanted to clean the pool who was I to stop them?

And of course they found a frog.

And of course they wanted to keep it.

And of course I said yes. Because this could cement their friendship! They could share custody and exchange the frog each week, taking turns caring for it and bonding over the shared responsibility. I immediately called Nic’s mom and got the OK. She seemed as enthusiastic as I was. She had an old terrarium I picked up and made ready for Jumpy Junior. We bought frog food and a fake log he could hide under. We made a water hole from a little honey jar I’d palmed from a restaurant. It was froggy paradise.

But that night Jason found one of the cats chasing Jumpy Junior across the living room floor. He put JJ back in the cage. I taped up the area around the light bulb with electrical tape.

The next day was the day I volunteer in Joe’s class. The boys asked if I would bring JJ. I asked permission of the teacher, got the official okey-dokey and brought the terrarium in. The kids were excited and asked questions. The boys basked in telling how they caught Jumpy Junior and how they named him and how they were going to share him. They kids in the class took turns trying to find JJ. I helped them look and explained that he was probably hiding under his log because he was scared. But as the morning wore on, I began to suspect that Jumpy Junior wasn’t simply hiding.

When I got home, while Joe was still in school, I peeked in the terrarium from every angle. JJ was a very good hider. Finally, I emptied it. First the log, then the leaves, then the honey-pot water hole. No Jumpy Junior. How could I tell Joe the frog was gone? How could he and Nic bond over a missing frog?

I put everything back and went outside and looked for another frog. No luck. I grew up catching lizards. I had no frog experience. I called Jason and told him about the missing JJ and asked him to find a replacement when he got home. (To his credit, he didn’t ask about my previous highly held convictions.) Then I staked out a place near the window and listened. I didn’t hear a croak until after Joe got home. By then there was no graceful way to ditch him to go outside and find a frog.

When Jason got home, I distracted Joe, and Jason swiftly caught the loud frog I’d heard. He deftly slipped him in the cage. When the frog started to croak, Jason and I joked about how Jumpy must finally be comfortable enough with us to talk. “He’s like a whole new frog,” Jason said, and he and I laughed.

But come morning, replacement JJ was gone. The terrarium was proving less than frog-proof. But I figured there was still no problem. First I figured we could find him in the house. But Lynn (our roommate) found his body as soon as Joe and I left for school. So I figured I would just find a replacement while Joe was gone. After all, I still had another day until the custody exchange. And we always have a ton of frogs in our yard this time of year.

But we also have the most unpredictable weather in the country. And it got cold that day. Cold enough that there was no croaking. I searched the yard. No frogs. Not even a croak. Jason searched. Nothing. When Joe asked about JJ, I relied on the tried and true, “He must be hiding under his log.”

The next day, I went out early and checked the pet stores. Lots of bright yellow or red exotic frogs and toads, but no plain green and brown Jumpy Juniors. The weather was a little warmer; maybe I could find a frog at the park. I had Jason feed Joe a line about me forgetting to get Jumpy ready to take to school and that I’d bring him for Nic when I came to pick up Joe. That gave me 6 hours to find a new Jumpy Junior.

I searched the yard again. Nothing but spiders and worms. I staked out the park. I walked around the pond at the park, followed the little creek, even managed to walk into a swarm of lethargic bees and do the prissy skip-dance through ankle-deep mud to get away (I hope there was at least someone around to see that, because, really, that kind of comedy should not be wasted.) I startled a couple of toads roughly the size of my head and one garter snake not much bigger than a worm, but no cute little frogs. I had to accept that the frog bond I had worked so hard to forge and fake between Nic and Joe was about to be rent asunder.

I couldn’t help thinking that if I were a TV mom I’d have found the frog and gotten it into the cage at the last minute with a great one-liner and a laugh-track complete with a few Aws. I felt vaguely disappointed. And not so vaguely pissed. I’d put a lot of effort into this. And I’m not the effort type. I was pretty sure Nic’s mom would’ve been able to find a frog. Or Mason’s. Or Jacob’s, Preston’s, Hawkeye’s, Mitchell’s, Ferdi’s, David’s. I was sure that this was a profound failing. A glaring damnation of my mothering abilities. A confirmation of the suspicions I was sure all the other mothers harbored about me. And I was sure Joe would never forgive me. When he was caught with a rifle in a bell tower in his later years, this day would be the subject of his rantings.

I wanted to call Jason and have him pick up Joe but this was my walk of shame.

I stood outside room 22 and waited for the bell to ring, hoping at least Nic would forget and just run on by. But, no, both he and Joe made a beeline toward me. “Where’s Jumpy Junior?!” Joe asked immediately.

No use bothering anymore. “He escaped. I’m sorry; he must’ve gotten out through –”
“I knew he was smart. I told you,” Nic said.

“Yeah, I bet he planned it!” Joe said, sounding proud.

“Ninja frog!” Nic yelled and put his hands up in the universal karate sign.

They ran ahead of me toward the edge of the playground, where cars and parents waited. They shoved each other and talked excitedly.

“Can Nic spend the night?” Joe yelled back at me.

“Sure,” I said, rushing to catch up. Kids darted around me, fast and happy like a swarm with its own hive mind. “Let’s go ask Nic’s mom.” But they were already rushing to where Krystal waited in the warmth of her car.

“Yeah!” Nic told Joe, “Maybe we can catch another frog!”

Joe and Nic

Joe and Nic

UPDATE: As of today (6-24-10), the third Jumpy Junior (found a few days after this post) is still alive. Anyone who has captured some tiny creature in their yard and locked it up in a tiny cracked plastic terrarium held together by duct tape can appreciate the marvel of this. We decided that any toad with such a will to live deserves to go out and breed. So, with Nic’s permission, Jason, Joe and I released JJ back into the wild. Well, technically, Joe threw him into the tall grass at the park and then told us all the stories JJ was telling to explain his absence to his friends.

Category: 9, Parenting, Stories  Tags: , ,  6 Comments
Cindie Geddes

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