18 April 2011

One Fish, Two Fish

I must be trying to qualify for Imperfect Mommy of the Year. I don't know how I did it - what I did wrong, but I killed, not one, but two goldfish in 24 hours. EC and LR each had their own fish - my attempt to divert them from the cat that they really wanted. EC had named her little red and white one Fishy and we'd decided to call LR's spotted one Dorothy after Elmo's fish on Sesame Street. G and I had splurged on a full tank with filter, lights and a castle. And the girls and I had gone back the next week for some plastic plants and a nice rock sculpture to provide a place for the fish to "hide."

EC and LR took turns feeding them and reading them stories. When the girls got new boxes of watercolors, they rushed home and held them up to the tank for Dorothy and Fishy to see. The adoration had waned a little bit from the first weeks, but they were still happy to watch them swimming around the tank and LR was sure to remind me to turn on the light for the fishies every morning.

Yesterday, it was time to change the filter. I read the directions carefully, rinsing the new filter with water and inserting it in place of the old one. I don't know what I could have done wrong - not rinsed it long enough? Who knows, but this morning, Fishy was not moving and Dorothy had not much time left in this world.

I couldn't believe that I had to tell the girls that the fish were dead. I told EC first - it was her fish that was dead, after all. I got down and looked her in the eye and just told her that Fishy had died. And she was sad, but I'm not sure she completely understood. When I told her that we could get another one if she wanted, she said, "Okay, I want one that is all red this time." Sadness over.

Dorothy struggled for another hour - I felt horrible not knowing what to do - wondering if she was suffering. I wasn't sure if I should put him out of his misery or just wait. I moved him to a new bowl, wondering if fresh water might be helpful, but alas, soon Dorothy was gone too. And so I told LR. First I said that Dorothy was gone. And she looked in the tank and said, "Oh, no!" And then so as to avoid confusion, I said, "Honey, Dorothy died." And she cried. For five seconds. And then she walked away.

I'll never know how much the kids understood. I'll never know if I handled it correctly. The girls seemed less affected by all of this than me, but it doesn't change the fact that I killed their poor fish! Talk about an imperfect mommy moment.

And so, we clean out the tank, toss out the gravel, set up the tank to filter another batch of tap water and head to the pet store for new fish. Though to some it may seem heartless to just replace one fish with another, I think some new fish swimming happily in the tank is just what this family needs.

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