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Tadpole Treason My dear ...

Posted Jun 13 2009 12:00am

Tadpole Treason

My dear son had it in his head that masses of frothy frog egg slim would be laid precisely on February 28th, to emerge into tiny tadpoles by mid-April (April 13th to be precise). He's been obsessively checking various frog websites, studying the life cycle, planning his capture of tadpoles to raise on his own into frogs. "Are these Ohio tadpoles?" I asked. "And not some warmer Southern tadpoles?" I strained my peri-menopausal memory banks to recall when I'd seen the first tadpoles of spring. I vaguely recall warmer temperatures, and definitely, the leaves were greened out more. Yet, spring is in a cruel stall right now...I think if the tadpoles did hatch, surely, they're going to slow their development. I didn't want to thoroughly squelch his enthusiasm for finding tadpoles, but I felt I must give him fair motherly warning that there is a chance the little guys just aren't out yet. Yet he blocked out my gentle warnings.

He was going to spend the night with his country cousins and raid their frog rich vernal pools for a tadpole to raise. When he was three years old I bought him one of those raise a tadpole kit things. It was when our house was very small and cramped, before the big renovation that finally turned our tiny abode into a regular, but still modestly sized home. I remember this irregular shaped container filled with foul smelling murky water, doling out tadpole chow, which alarmingly resembled dog food to me. It disintegrated and floated to the top. I recall starting out with several tadpoles, but several died, leaving three hearty tadpoles souls left. It sat in our teensie-weensie living room--I smelled it every time I walked by. It made my stomach heave. I changed the water frequently and followed those instructions to a tee, to keep those three remaining tadpoles alive for my fascinated toddler, and to inhibit to horrid stench as much as possible. I wanted to throw it out so bad. I think we reached a point where one of the tadpoles sprouted front and hind legs before some inequilibrium caused it to die also. I have blocked out the reaction of my son.

He's amazingly adept at keeping lower life forms alive. I can fill a blog on the various critters he's raised over the years. He's a born naturalist, I guess. He's raised tadpoles now for several years but, he looks forward to it every spring with renewed vigor. Each year he's a little more educated on their needs--bringing new levels of complexity to his frog care.

My husband and I were looking forward to our night out alone, but during dinner we wondered how it went with the tadpoles. Were they out? We wondered if we should call during our romantic dinner and find out. No. My son went over equipped for serious biologist combat, bringing a newly purchased tadpole tank, a fish net for proper capture, and even an array of aquatic plants to feed the little critters. It was cold, grey, and sprinkling light rain---but hark! My son read that tadpoles love this kind of weather; they'd surely be happily frolicking in the pools, practically ready to jump into his net.

I tried to just enjoy my rare night out with my husband, blotting out the true life scenario that was unfolding for my son. I harbored hope. I went along my day--I had a terrible work day. Mostly they are good, but today was just awful and I was tired from stretching out my kid free time--going to bed late, getting up early. I knocked on the door of my sister-in-laws house--the first thing I saw was a too-clean empty tadpole tank sitting on the couch. Oh no. Woe. This was a most fitting Friday the 13th.

My son came out and looked semi-normal, except for his artificially straightened hair; his hair styling cousin got hold of him and straightened the curly locks. He didn't look distressed, at least. Maybe he accepted the "too early for tadpoles edict" with new found maturity? No, the tadpoles were not out, and my level headed, no-nonsense sister-in-law did her best to appease his dreams, that tadpoles will soon be out...just not yet. I sat down and chatted. Somehow we got to chatting about books and I mentioned my decision to institute family reading hour. My son let out a plaintive wail, refusing to do this. I knew instantly this was not about family reading hour at all, but his disappointment with the tadpoles. He felt he had missed them entirely. He doubts there will be any tadpoles now, cause they were supposed to be! It was the end of an entire genus of nature! But he believed in the Internet and begged to order them online. "Like hell am I going to order them online! You will muster patience and wait for spring like the rest of us spring starved Ohioans."

I feel so bad for the little guy. Spring break really sucked. The weather was horrid nearly every day. He was so looking forward to those little tadpoles and now that spring break is coming to a close...all there that is left is the specter of a pile of homework and a book to finish by Monday. No wonder he flipped when I talked about reading hour. It would have been a little more tolerable with his tadpoles in the background. Disappointment...
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