This summer marked the first time that we've had across-the-street neighbors. For seven years, our house faced two empty lots, but recently two families with children moved in. Our girls have been delighted.
It's unusual when more than a day to passes without the six kids gathering in one of our yards. When they're at my house, my goal has been to keep an eye on the activity without hovering. Let kids be kids. I stay attuned enough to catch moments when they indicate that they're up to no good, like the day they clumsily snuck out of our shed carrying shovels while whispering, "Do you think your mom will notice if we dig there?"
A mom's ears perk up at phrases like this.
When I pressed them for more information, the story came tumbling out. Apparently, the toad that they had captured the night before had died. One girl shook a small insect cage to clear away the debris and thrust it under my nose. I took one look at the toad's shriveled form and confirmed the inevitable: Yep, he's a bit dehydrated.
My five-year-old became the spokesperson. "We need shovels to bury him."
The ceremony was brief. Nobody knew the toad's name, but he's now resting in peace in the far corner of our backyard under a grave site marked with a golf ball and a rose.
The next day the kids showed me the insect cage again. This time it contained a pitiable lightning bug and a bee that kept charging into the perforated roof, his only chance for freedom.
"Are you planning on releasing them? Giving them any water, or something?" I ventured.
"Probably," one kid answered. "But if they die, don't worry. We know where to bury them now."