The sun didn’t shine a lot this morning – which isn’t unusual since it’s Washington, and seeing sun is an event that is reserved for six weeks in the middle of summer. But today, the sky was just a bit more drag, more dreary and in general, depressed.
Last night a long time friend of the family passed on, Freddy Fruger. Now most people I know do not reserve the level of mourning for a frog that we did for Freddy. She – yes, Freddy was as far as we know a “she” – was a remarkable amphibian and more than willing to take on her weight in ocelots most days. Freddy’s life, unlikely as it seems began with – a frog dying.
My daughter had promised a science teacher that she would faithfully take care of the tad poles from their science class through the summer and brought them home. She was so proud of this honor, to be picked to care for the classes project and report on them. It was a duty she took seriously. All the more serious, when of course they passed away promptly. All of them. She was heart broken, and scared the teacher wouldn’t like her anymore and all manner of pre-teen angst over a science project gone wrong. To make matters worse this wasn’t a situation where you could run down to the pet store and ask for a half a dozen of any kind of tadpoles – no they couldn’t just be any tadpoles. They needed to be African Clawed Frog tadpoles, and they needed to be x weeks into their development so that my daughter could record their success as the grew. Science teachers for 12 year olds are incredibly cruel in thinking that this is a good idea.
My daughter was devastated. Her aspirations of praise from her teacher when she returned from summer vacation were dashed. Her future destroyed – oh the inhumanity!! I took this as a good opportunity to show my daughter that even when things look bad you don’t give up. I did what any father would do – I decided to help her cheat by getting all new tadpoles we could pass off as the originals. Which is … harder than it looks. You can’t just go into a pet store and say, “I need 12 tadpoles in their second stage if you got’em.”, well you can’t with most pet stores – there are some. But that’s not the point… the point is I was not going to let my daughter down. I was not going to let her give into the fates at the age of 12. She needed to learn that you can overcome any obstacle if you really want to – there is always a way.
I’ve talked to several fathers over the years who have hit this exact same situation. So I’ll divert from the tale of Freddy just long enough to impart this one simple tip that will make you an instant superhero with your kids. Carolina Biological Supply. This is where a lot of science teachers buy their stuff – and they are also able to set you up with a tadpoles in various stages of development. (Buy twice the number you need. You can thank me later.)
So… I helped my daughter cheat – and we got two sets of tad poles because we figured that they may not live. They did of course. The science teacher after he summer break never had a clue – and I allowed my daughter to keep one frog, whom she named “Freddy”.
Trying to explain why Freddy Fruger was so, as my daughter would always refer to her, “awesome” is a bit difficult. Maybe it’s because of the way she came into our lives – as a wish that my daughter would learn that it’s never over, that you don’t give up, and you don’t give in, you find a way to over come things that somehow Freddy became the embodiment of this. She was tough. She was smart. She was – as frogs go – huge, and mean. She’d try to bite when you fed her.
She also on one occasion tried to escape her tank, and made it as far as the stairs. She was nearly dried out, pale, and possibly had been attacked by one of the cats before we found her. Freddy was not looking good. But Freddy did not give in. Neither did my daughter. My first reaction at this was “Finally we can get rid of this thing.”, then I saw the look in my daughters eyes of sheer panic and horror that a close friend was passing.
So – using every bit of amphibian knowledge I had, which for the most part meant picking it up and putting it back in it’s tank of water gingerly and with love – and watching over her - I saved Freddy. But the truth is it wasn’t me, as I’m sure you’ve gathered. It was my daughter who learned to love and care for another creature through this unlikely of pets. She read, and she studied, and of all the animals she’s had this was the one she was closest to, and I think she learned the most from.
As the years went by and Freddy grew, I’d save her again after she’d eaten enough rocks she could no longer swim to the surface for air, and in general many days I was surprised the frog was even still alive. I may have gotten the credit but it was my daughter who did the saving every time. She perhaps never realized it. So now, Six years later – I find myself digging one of those familiar holes under a tree, with a shoe box that is most carefully packed with soft padding, and a frog, and the memories of how much it’s taught my daughter and myself about not giving up on things.