Back in November my next door neighbor, Emmy, found tadpoles in her garden fountain. It was the day before our temperatures were forecast to drop significantly, so she & her youngest daughter rescued them. They were thoughtful to bring them over and let my children enjoy the discovery.
As Emmy's grew into a froglet, my children would dash back and forth to their house to monitor the progress. Around the first of December, Emmy showed up on my back porch with a grin and a whole kit for growing frogs. We read the directions, prepared the tank and delighted in our newest pet, Agent P.
We have tried tadpoles before that haven't lasted long, but the last 3 months have gone swimmingly for Agent P. He has been a staple on my kitchen counter. We (and I am including myself in this) have enjoyed our morning examination to see how he has grown and changed each day. Just yesterday, the trio and I were showing his picture off in the school lunchroom and planning to bring him to Show & Tell today.
We got clearance from K & P's teacher to bring a live creature and made our plans. I was scheduled to bring his tank this afternoon, just in time for 2pm Show & Tell. As we were examining him this morning he seemed to be breathing differently, but after 20 minutes of googling and reading I was convinced it was the natural order of things for him in this part of his metamorphosis--and stopped worrying.
When I left the house to take the children to school he was swimming up near the top of the waterline, pausing on the floating grass and appearing normal. I returned home 20 minutes later to find him dead. Not just struggling, but completely-upside-down dead in the bottom of the tank!
It literally hurt my heart to think about my excited first graders, chatting with their friends on Show & Tell Day about their Mom's anticipated arrival with Agent P...unaware that he won't be coming. And what of their friends? Am I really about to have to deliver the bad news of the death of a pet to a whole class of 6-7 year olds?
My mind raced with all the possible ways I could try to soften the news: frog hunting, frantic pet store calling, imaginative stories about his dramatic escape...but at the end of the day, I strive to parent honestly and age appropriately. Part of loving anything (even a slimy little tadpole/froglet) is knowing loss may one day come.
But, honestly, this was not a part of my plan today! It is the Friday before Spring Break--and an exciting Show & Tell Day. They were excitedly anticipating this. Ugghh. Being a Mama is not for wimps!
I called a couple of friends for advice. It was comforting to hear a friend of mine say and then pray, "Isn't it great to serve a God who cares about you & your children's hearts even in the loss of a tadpole?"
She went on the remind me that death was not a part of the original Adam & Eve story. Death came after the entrance of sin on our world. Death is not comfortable because it was not a part of the original design. Death (even of a tadpole) stings.
In a few weeks we will celebrate Easter--a reminder that God has overcome death. But today feels a little like Good Friday...with 17 first graders as the audience.
I went to the school during their snack break time and on the advice of the teacher (and my gut) I took my kiddos out into the hallway and told them that Agent P. had died. They were understandably disappointed and K asked a lot of questions with tears in her eyes. Overall, they handled it very well.
Now I need a nap!