Sometimes parents just dig themselves in a hole from where they cannot escape. This is a story about that.
For Wolf’s three-year birthday, we took him to Great Wolf Lodge outside of Williamsburg, VA. For those unfamiliar with the concept, imagine an indoor waterpark combined with a Chuck E. Cheese, a ropes course, mini golf, bowling, and a bunch of other stuff I never had the chance to check out.
Wolf cared only about the swimming or “fruming” as he called it at the time, but Daddy wanted to spend some time in the arcade, racking up plenty of tickets on his son’s behalf in the meantime. The fruit of my labor, among other things was a tiny green frog. It was probably worth one-tenth of a cent in plastic, but it went about $1 frittered away for tickets from Whac-a-Mole, Centipede, and elsewhere.
This little green frog went EVERYWHERE with Wolf for the next several months. He slept with it until several nights of frantically looking for it at 2 a.m. led us to make a rule that he could no longer sleep with small animals.
He clenched it with such ferocity that I was actually concerned about permanent disfigurement of his hand, mitigating the problem by asking his teachers at daycare to suggest that the frog preferred to stay home during the day.
He lost it occasionally, lamenting at its absence for days and weeks at a time. We always eventually found it, hidden away in a doll house, wedged in his car seat, or placed on a shelf above eye-line when mommy and daddy had had enough of his obsession.
Then one day he lost it for good.
I believe the culprit was some auto detailing on my wife’s car. The poor little plastic frog was likely sucked into oblivion by a Shop-Vac. We did not plan this. He did get some sort of happiness from it and while we might hide it from time to time, we would never conspire to throw a functioning and oft-used toy away without his consent.
We convinced him that it might have hopped away. Blessed with a strong sense of imagination and a healthy belief in magic, compliments of Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street, this was a plausible belief.
As the weeks passed in its absence, he grew less worried and more fatalistic.
“Maybe it will come back someday.”
“Yes Wolf, we can always hope.”
I will concede that I was probably as heart-broken as him and planned to get another green frog, if they still had them at the arcade at Great Wolf Lodge.
We returned to Great Wolf Lodge a year later for his fourth birthday celebration. Having overheard a conversation between Lauren and me, Wolf knew there was an outside chance they might still have a little green frog in the arcade and brought it up occasionally on the drive down.
Wolf was ready to let it go. His little green frog was never coming back.
Daddy wasn’t ready to let it go.
It’s amazing what one can do with a smart phone and 4G, and while the boys and my wife were devouring ice cream and pizza, I was Googling.
Years of high-level academic research and taking every single research class available in law school coming to a head as I tracked down a piece of worthless petroleum byproduct assembled in China.
[Carnival prizes plastic frog]
It took .64 seconds to pull 1,280,000 search results, but the top one from rinovelty.com (Rhode Island Novelty Store) was the one I cared about.
I flashed my phone at Lauren while the kids stared down at a mound of slowly melting vanilla ice cream.
“Does this look right?”
“Five colors available. I should probably order several just to get the right color.”
I knew I was spoiling him rotten, but it’s his birthday, and I’ll buy if I want to.
Looking back, something didn’t feel right about it. The price was $5 each for an item that I already noted was worth about one-tenth of a cent. I ordered 8 to account for the likelihood of getting the proper color. With shipping the whole thing came to $50 and it would arrive the day we got back from our trip.
I was giddy with excitement.
The package was on our front step and I knew something was wrong. I ordered 8 little green frogs but the box was two feet long. I took it upstairs and opened it to find 8 bags of 142 frogs.
If you are trying to do the math in your head, don’t.
It’s 1,136 frogs.
Nowhere on the website did it say there were 142 frogs per purchase.
To put a cap on the story, my son was elated that his frog had come back.
Now I have to figure out what to do with 1,135 frogs.
And what to do about framing Santa Claus to a little boy who believes in a magical plastic frog…
I'm a military spouse to my US Navy Lieutenant Commander, Lauren. We are proud parents of Wolf and Bear. When I'm not supporting her career and raising my two wild animals, I teach a law course at the University of Florida, run ultramarathons, and write. I'm the author of "Parenting as a Contact Sport" and currently in search of a publisher. Most stories I publish are proposed additions to a sequel titled "Daddy Hold My Milk: Famous Last Words of a Toddler. Twitter: parentingsport