Posts tagged Frogs and Toads

Toads!

Homeward bound after a week’s stay at the cottage, our 6-year-old son surprised us with some unexpected news: “Hey Mommy, guess what? I’m bringing 3 frogs home!” While the news was unexpected, it didn’t come as a surprise.

One of Teddy’s favourite occupations while at the cottage was collecting tiny postage stamp-sized toads for observation. He’s now telling everyone that he collected 21: eleven little toads and one much larger frog that counts for 10. Now three of his little friends were embarking on an epic odyssey (at least for a toad) and their new owner couldn’t contain his joy. “Finally I have a pet!” he remarked continually.

The biggest surprise in this story is that Mommy also likes the toads. I am known to like – nay, love – plants, but animals are too uncontrollable and messy. (Which is precisely why I should probably have a pet, but that’s a different discussion altogether.) I wasn’t a huge fan at first, but those little brown speckled frogs with their scrawny legs and freckle-sized feet have grown on me.

Initially I was prepared to insist on having him release the little guys after a day or two, explaining that they would be happier in the wild where they could catch their own food. With a heavy heart and tears running down his face he headed outside to do as he was told. Now, I am a big believer in sticking to my guns in most parenting struggles, but this I couldn’t bear to watch. It wasn’t that long since I was a kid (was it?), and suddenly I could feel his pain at having to release his precious “new pets” into the wide open backyard. I ran outside to let him know that we’d try to make the arrangement work. Besides, this could be a great learning opportunity (for all of us!).

Now that we had some permanent amphibian residents in the house, we decided to make some arrangements to increase their comfort. For one thing, they needed food. What do tiny frogs eat? Ants, apparently. So until we could get to a pet store to buy some crickets, Oliver and the boys captured ants and watched the little toads hunt them down. This activity is much more interesting to watch than a cocoon languishing away day after day. We put a few rocks into the little bug catcher so they would have something to climb onto, and made sure to fill the water bottle lid with water so they could cool off whenever they felt like it. Still, every 10 minutes Teddy would ask if we could buy a terrarium for the frogs. When I could no longer stand it and forbade him asking me again (it was, after all, still only Sunday – the day after we’d gotten home) he began to say things like, “those frogs sure are squished in there…they need a terrarium” or “I’m sure those frogs would be happier in a terrarium.”

I knew installing that windowsill was a good idea.

By Monday Teddy had the responsibility of feeding the frogs, which was an eye-opening experience for him indeed. For the first time he realized that if these guys were going to live, it would be because he caught the food for them. While running errands on Tuesday we happened to pass a pet store, and I – in a very uncharacteristic move – went in with the children in tow. A pet store for kids is like a jewelry store for women. They have live animals, people! Not being pet owners ourselves (at least, until recently) we never darken the door of pet stores, so for our children this experience was as new as the dawn. We did manage to walk out with only the essentials and no extra pets: a plastic bucket specifically designed for kids who collect small critters, a plastic “rock” with a small depression to hold water, and some coconut husk plantation soil. I dug up a weed from the lawn and planted it in a small jar and placed it in our new “terrarium” along with a few rocks from the garden. Most importantly we purchased 10 mini-crickets, almost as big as the toads themselves. For the little toads, the crickets were certainly more demanding prey than the ants, but by the end of the day only 3 were left. Success!

In just over a week I have gone from having no contact with animals to babysitting a terd on my kitchen windowsill to observing a small eco-system interact in a blue-tinged bucket.  Here’s my latest observation about life, based on toads and children:  just as the clay of our life is beginning to harden as we reach adulthood, God gives us children to force change and new experiences. Any kid will tell you that soft clay is way more fun to work with than the hard stuff.

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