If ever you wanted to add a new dimension of terror and intrigue to your holidays, I highly recommend you foster the class pet. If there is anything more frightening than the specter of mishandling your own pet animals, it has to be that of mishandling the creature of the classroom.
Imagine returning in January with an empty cage (not that you ever would, when PetSmart has replacement gerbils available) or facing all those eager eyes knowing the legendary 1st grade rabbit bounded away on your watch.
Almost every holiday, I’ve taken home hamsters, gerbils, or frogs in the name of being a good classroom citizen-mom. Truth be told, these episodes have also been opportunities to conduct a controlled experiment of our fitness to handle another living creature.
Last year was a frog year. As I accompanied my daughter down the school hallway with a tub of small frogs (which I felt were sloshing violently despite my careful steps), we ran into the guidance counselor.
“Ah, I see you’ve got the frogs for the holidays,” she offered cheerfully, perhaps sensing my terror.
I murmured, “Yes,” (nervous laugh), “Wish these frogs luck,” and silently hoped she had a classroom-wide grief counseling plan at the ready.
“Oh, those guys are pretty tough,” she offered encouragingly, “And if not, well…it may just be their time,” she reassured me, as she breezed past.
I found this fatalistic approach quite unsettling. What if I were to inadvertently hasten these frogs’ “time,” all before they had even spread their little webbed feet? Fortunately, despite a few traumatic episodes of water-changing and rock-rinsing (check that PH!), the frogs survived their sojourn with us.
This year some other sucker* is going to have to take home the frogs. Thank goodness for Google’s animal care instructions and, if all else fails, PetSmart.
*Who’s the biggest sucker? After a series of successful classroom pet holidays, I just consented to a permanent pet hamster.