We celebrated Austen's (not his real name) birthday 13 days ago. Family and friends in the backyard. It was a very nice day. We had tons of food, much of what we continued to eat for the following four days. The boys played whiffle ball and tag and Austen opened presents. One present he did not have to open. His good friend showed up carrying a plastic cage with an American Green Tree Frog. His mom was with him. Stunned, my husband quickly thought of both my son's feelings and this happy frog carrying boy's feelings. This boy was so excited to be giving the "best" gift. But, the mom never asked us. The frog also came with a tub of food. Live crickets....live crickets that we would also have to keep alive by feeding them potato. My houseplants risk their lives in my home every day.
So the frog stayed. Austen was hesitant. He is a HUGE animal lover and is so careful and mindful of animals. All animals. Even the ugly ones. Even the creepy ones. So, seeing little said green frog in a plastic cage when he knows the little green frog would be happier in the wild was a little difficult. Austen kept saying, "I think she likes it in there".....like he was convincing himself. After a few days, he allowed himself to name her "Hopper" ( according to all the research Austen did, Hopper was in fact, a girl). Austen would check on her several times a day, mist her cage and carefully feed the crickets. He was a very caring frog Daddy. By Wednesday of this week, Hopper stared looking molty and bloated. Thomas and I just looked at each other. By that evening, Hopper had made her last hop. We told Austen and he went to the bathroom for a long while. After sometime, we all gathered in Austen's bedroom to sit shiva together. We buried Hopper in the front landscaping. Austen cried because he loved his little green frog. Russell teared up because of his little brother's sadness. Thomas choked up because he wanted to keep that little frog alive for his son, and for his older son's empathy for his brother and for his little boy's love for a little frog. And I cried because in a house full of tough boys seeing their love and empathy for each other is more than one mom could have ever expected from a little green frog gift.