Tadpole Time (aka The Frog Bog Incident)


I recently took Sophie to Tadpole Time, a special, hour-long program at the Newport Aquarium for children Sophie’s age. We were able to be in the aquarium before it opened—Sophie saw a toad up close, touched a baby cockroach from Madagascar, listened to a story about ocean noises and ran like crazy through the aquarium along with about 20 other children her age.


Things were going along splendidly until we got to the Frog Bog. In this part of the aquarium there’s a huge, three-story play set for children to climb in. I took Sophie’s shoes off and off she went. Normally, at parks, I climb in play sets with her—she often needs help reaching platforms and getting across bridges. But this play set was meant for small children only so I could only sit and watch as older children helped lift her to higher platforms. Most of the time I couldn’t see her. I know this was good for her, and good for me. I didn’t realize it would be so hard. She’s growing up.

After about 15 minutes of playing it was time to see the penguins on parade. Every other parent simply told their toddler it was time to get out and out they came, eager to put their shoes on and watch the penguins strut. Except Sophie. She loved the tunnel, which, of course, was located on the third level of the play set. I mean, she loved it. So much, she refused to come out.

After asking, insisting, scolding and, eventually, pleading, she refused to show face. The Tadpole Time instructor gave me a do-you-know-you’re-the-only-mom-we’re-waiting-on-to-get-their-daughter-out-of-there-so-we-can-see-the-penguins-on-parade look?

So I took my shoes off. And squeezed my pregnant self into the play set. I hoisted myself up onto too-small platforms and tried to suck a stomach in that would not suck. Twice I was sure I was stuck. I found her, in the middle of the tunnel, scowling at me.

“Sophie,” I said. “We have to go. Don’t you want to see the penguins on parade?”

“NO Mama!”

“Well you don’t have a choice. Come on.”

But she wouldn’t come. She wouldn’t move. She wouldn’t budge. And to make matters worse, she decided to cling to the side of the tunnel and scream. Loudly.

Climbing up to the tunnel was hard enough. Climbing back down, with a screaming, wiggling, hair-pulling toddler was next-to-impossible. And then the crying started. She cried while I put her shoes on and gathered her diaper bag. She cried all the way through the aquarium—even the soothing jelly fish part. If I put her down, she immediately ran, trying to make her way back to her beloved tunnel.

Other parents gave me looks. One said, “Tough morning?” Yeah. You could say so.

All in all, the entire episode probably lasted 15 minutes. It felt like three hours. And although I intended to leave right away she, surprisingly, calmed down right before the parade started.

Walking through Newport on the Levee to the parking garage, she ran and twirled and smiled and screamed happy screams.

“Did you have fun, Sophie?” I asked.

“YEAH!” she said.

Of course she did.

“Temper tantrums, however fun they may be to throw, rarely solve whatever problem is causing them.” —Lemony Snicket