From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

The Critter Brigade

It’s very important to give children a chance.

Nikki Giovanni

The Critter Brigade was out early this morning. Through the kitchen window I could see them: seven-year-old Haley, five-year-old Molly and three-year-old Hewson scrambling through the irises, still in their pajamas, soaked with dew and gaining on what looked like a tiny tree frog.

I was pulling for the frog, but the little fellow was too slow. The next I saw of him, he was peering out from Molly’s fist with a look that seemed to say I was his only hope of seeing the outside world again. Haley trailed Molly with a hand full of leaves and grass. “Here, let’s put him in a jar with these. We’ll make it just like his house outside.”

They scoured the cabinets for just the right container as I subtly dispensed my first dose of guilt. I’ve got this down to a science. “Ya’ll didn’t happen to see his mom or dad anywhere around, did you? I hope they’re not getting worried about him.”

But nobody was paying attention to me. They were too busy writing name suggestions on slips of paper and mixing them up in a bowl. “Mom, what would you like our frog’s name to be?”

“Well . . . gee . . . I thought we might just keep him a few minutes then let him go. Don’t you think he’d be happier in his own environment where everything’s familiar?”

Hewson jumped up and down hollering, “Darth Vader! Darth Vader! His name is Darth Vader!”

“Hopper!” Molly finally announced. “His first name’s Hopper! Mom, may we call Grammy and see what she’d like his middle name to be?”

Aha, reinforcement. Grammy would be on my side. She’d know just the right words to convince them to set him free and leave them thinking it was their own idea. Why didn’t I think of Grammy before? I dialed her number, handed the phone to Molly and smiled.

Two minutes later she gave it back to me. “Grammy likes the name Kermit, like Kermit the frog!”

Thanks for nothing, Gram. Perhaps a bit more directness was in order. I sat the kids down and we admired our frog, his cool green color, his tiny black-bean eyes. Haley had the “F” encyclopedia open and was spouting frog facts at us. Molly wondered if they could find a spider web with a fly in it to feed him.

It was an opening; I jumped in with both feet. “Oh, I just remembered. Frogs won’t eat in captivity. If we don’t let him go, he’ll starve.”

Molly wavered a bit, but Haley knew better. She’d seen frogs at the pet shop. They must be eating something there. Maybe I could call and ask them?

I went in for the kill. “Gee, his little heart is pounding. He’s scared. I’ll bet we look like giants to him.”

Haley put her nose close to the jar and peered in at him. Molly wondered out loud if she could teach him to do tricks; he might be good at walking a tightrope. “Mom, could I bring him to school tomorrow? May I take him next door to show Miss Camellia? She loves frogs!”

Hopper Kermit Vader just stared.

That’s when Providence stepped in. From outside in the irises, we heard the sound of another frog calling.

“Did you hear that, Mom?” Molly pondered. “That might be his mama.”

“Yeah, he looks like a baby,” Haley agreed. A moment of silence. “Mom, do you think it would be okay if we just let him go?”

“Well, if you all think it’s best.” I could hardly believe my ears.

As Hopper plopped clumsily down on an iris blade, I breathed a sigh of relief. But not for long.

“Come on!” Haley shouted, “Let’s turn over the stepping stones and see how many doodle bugs we can find!” And the Critter Brigade was off again.

Mimi Greenwood Knight

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners