Smash is dead.
An African Dwarf frog brought by Santa Claus as a Christmas present to Lila after mucho begging and a spate of good behavior, Smash croaked overnight after surviving a considerably long time without his dried shrimp pellets. He is survived by his bamboo plant and neon purple living rocks, which, btw, were supposed to keep him alive in case errant 8-year-olds lost interest in their easy-to-care-for pets and stopped, like, giving a crap about them.
I saw this coming back in April, when I asked Lila how Smash was faring.
“He’s fine, I guess,” Lila said as I peered into Smash’s abode, which was tossed haphazardly on top of her kiddie kitchen, surrounded by random plastic bottles of catsup, fake fish and an orange play chicken.
“When’s the last time you fed him?” I asked in earnest. Smash tucked himself into the corner behind the bamboo. He looked weird.
“I don’t know,” Lila shrugged.
I sucked in my breath and gave my daughter a blank stare and two long blinks.
“Mommy, what? I kept him alive since Christmas,” she insisted.
The implication here being that we should be tossing up gold sparkles and rainbow glitter over the fact that she bothered at all to take care of the pet she begged for for months, much less kept it alive from Christmas until that very moment.
Such is the life of the little buggers that find their way into our house at the behest of children or well-meaning adults who think it’s a good idea to give living things as gifts to my kids. First, there was Belly, an electric blue Betta fish. He was a present from Gamma Bettye and Papa Jimy, who simply couldn’t resist buying a pet for their granddaughter. Then there was Belly 2—an exact replica/replacement for the first Belly, which died of overfeeding. And Dori—a Finding Nemo replica that the girls just had to have because, well, Ellen DeGeneres was awesome in that movie and who’s cooler than Ellen?
And then there was M&M, the 23-cent goldfish Mari’s friend’s mom gave out as a party favor to Mari. M&M was an extremely lucky 23-cent gold fish with expensive tastes; he moved into a bowl with accessories totaling $40, purchased for the 23-cent goldfish named M&M because the original bowl was much too small and M&M was way too lonely and plus, M&M really liked flowers and caves.
This is a picture of M&M three days after he came home from the party and moved into his new digs.
In fact, the only please-Mommy-if-you-let-us-have-that-pet-we-will-love-you-long-time-and-we-triple-dog-swear-we’ll-take-care-of-it-we-promise-pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top pet that’s lasted is Teddy, a 2007 Christmas present to my girls. I love him, I do. He’s my sweet boy—my heart. And I promise you, the only reason he’s alive is because I’ve assumed most of the care and responsibility for him: I feed him twice a day (or remind the girls to do it); I let him out to pee and run (or remind the girls to do it); I make sure he has his shots and take him to the vet when he’s sick (or make Nick do it); and I schedule his grooming appointments.
This is what mothers do.
Against our better judgment.
And definitely common sense.
The kids make those little smoochy faces and pull out those puppy dog eyes and we say, “Oh, okay, you can have it,” convinced in our minds that this time, maybe—just maybe—those passionate pleas will manifest themselves in some real action. You know, a little tender loving kid care above and beyond an occasional glance. A little responsibility on their parts—responsibility that far extends beyond their mother chasing them around the house, barking, Did you feed the frog? and Are you going to clean out the fish tank? and Ew, who’s picking that up?
But nope, never happens.
So the next time one of those girls fixes her mouth to ask for another pet, I’m going to be strong and hold steadfast—no matter the big puppy dog eyes and the Please, Mommy pleas.
So let it be written, so let it be said.
*she says as she packs her purse, grabs her keys, loads her kids into the car and, against all better judgment, lets those puppy dog eyes steer her straight toward Learning Express, where, rumor has it, a fresh shipment of African Dwarf frogs just arrived. *
I will not buy one.
I will be strong.
Man, I’m such a sucka.