Parenting 101: What The Toad Whisperer Taught Me

My daughter, Abbie, is 8 years old. It’s hard for me to believe, but that precious girl is already 8. As the oldest, she learns a lot of lessons first, which isn’t easy. She also gets to teach Mom and Dad a few things as well. Also not easy.

After returning from Pine Cove family camp a few weeks ago, Abbie popped into the kitchen and asked if we had any frog food. Knowing that we had some somewhere from a failed attempt to raise tadpoles last year, I tried to brush her off.

“I think so, but I don’t know where. Why?”

“No reason.”

And she skipped off to her room. I thought I’d dodged a bullet for sure. No way did I want another pet to take care of. Desi and I have plenty to do already and the thought of getting another cage, aquarium, tank, etc. to clean or another mouth to feed made me crazy. “No More Pets!” has been my mantra for a while now and the incredikids know it.

A couple of days later, Abbie, quite casually asked, “Whatever happened to our little aquarium?” Not connecting the dots or even noticing that there were dots around to connect, I responded, “I’m not sure baby. Probably in the garage. Why?”

“No reason.”

I’m so off of my game. “No reason,” should stick out like a Las Vegas casino marquis on fire. There’s always a reason. Always.

And of course there was a reason. Sweet Abbiegirl came clean a few days later. She told her mom first. Smart. She had found two frogs (toads actually) at Pine Cove and kept them in a water bottle in our cabin. She poked holes in the bottle and put water and food (bugs) inside. She managed to smuggle them home in her stuff and then secreted them away to her room. We had absolutely no clue. She took care of them in her room for at least a week before telling us.

When Desi told me, I had one thought and one thought only – punishment. What is the correct punishment for this? We don’t have a specific rule about this, but it is a deception. No doubt about it. She has tricked us. She has DECEIVED us. And we can not stand for that. My internal punishment rolodex was spinning out of control when Desi stopped me.

“She did come clean about it. I didn’t have to ask her. And she has taken really great care of them. I don’t want to punish her when she comes to us and confesses.”

Good point.

Now, you can quibble with us over the choice to let her keep the frogs toads. And I’d be willing to hear the argument, but that’s not the point of this post. Here’s the point…

The toads are actually kind of awesome. The kids are loving it. A neighbor friend gave them an old tank she wasn’t going to use anymore. They’ve been reading up on toad care. There’s now some organic soil in the tank along with a little bowl of water and some rocks. The toads are happily burrowing into the dirt and eating pill bugs like crazy. And the incredikids are learning a ton. Abbie is taking responsibility for these things in a way that I haven’t seen her before with anything else. It’s really great. And there’s no way I would have ever said “yes” if she’d asked me. She knew that. And that’s the point. She shouldn’t have done this without asking. Especially if she knew what my response would be. We’ve had that conversation and we’ll have it again. But I need to learn something in this process, too. My little girl is growing up. She needs the benefit of learning from taking responsibility for things. I need to say “yes” more. Even when I’m pretty sure that I will be the one taking care of the toads at some point, I still need to say “yes” more. She needs these opportunities. All of them do. They won’t ever get them if the answer is always “no.”

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4 thoughts on “Parenting 101: What The Toad Whisperer Taught Me

  1. Johnny Lovelady

    Great reminder of saying “yes” more when it comes to little things … Thanks for sharing!

  2. jimmy

    Good stuff Les. I struggle with this as well. My pride, need to control, and desire to not be inconvenienced causes me to miss out on providing important opportunities for them. Thanks for the reminder and greatful for the perspective our better halves give us in times like this.

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