Musings From MommyLand

Because sometimes there is more to Mommy…

Parental Dilemma…The Floating Fish

on August 2, 2012

So last night I went in to check on the boy child as I do every night before I head to bed and as part of this routine, I turn off the light for his small fish tank that sits on his dresser.  Last night, as I was getting ready to shut off the light, I glanced towards the fish and noticed that one of the two was floating belly up and I was pretty sure he wasn’t just taking a nap.

A little background…a couple of months ago when we were in West Virginia, my family had an early birthday party for “Noodle” and my mom decided that they needed to get him a fish tank.  I was not overly fond of this idea for several reasons the main ones being the cleaning of the tank and the fact that fish aren’t exactly known for their longevity.  Death isn’t a topic you want to have to visit too much with an almost 4-year-old.  However, I agreed to this because he really loved helping my mom with her fish and I knew he would be excited about it.

Fast forward a few weeks…”Noodle” is the proud owner of two goldfish.  Venom and Buckethead (if you watch Ultimate Spiderman on Disney XD you will get the reference).  They seem to be doing well and while Buckethead is a bit of a bully it has been an uneventful few weeks for the fish.  As of last night at the kids bedtime, both of the fish looked fine.  As of the mommy and daddy’s bedtime, Venom had bitten the dust.  I think it may have been some sort of heroic/poetic justice that the villain’s namesake was the first to go.

Jay took care of Venom’s burial at sea while “Noodle” slept (thank god he is a heavy sleeper at night) and now we are left with the dilemma of what to tell him about his fish.  Thus far, he has not paid enough attention to his fish tank today to realize that he is one fish down.  So my question is, do we sit down and have “the talk” with him or do I make Jay stop at the pet store on the way home and find one to replace Venom before the boy child even knows what happened?  I am fairly certain this will end with a conversation, but I thought I would pose the question to my readers.  What would you do (or what have you done) in this situation?  Any thoughts or advice?

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8 responses to “Parental Dilemma…The Floating Fish

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Deal with it straight on would be my advice, and be truthful without being graphic. (The fish died, fish have a short life span…)This is a chance to help him process the loss of a pet, a great step toward facing some of the larger losses in life.
    It sometimes helps if there’s a little bit of ritual involved, but ask the child if he would like to do something…my youngest recently held an elaborate ceremony for her “pet ant” including a box burial and a stick in the front yard to note the place—a crayon picture might suffice. This gives the option for the kid to ask questions about fearful subjects in a safe environment, and as parents we get to express our own feelings (unfortunate this happened but it’s part of the life cycle).
    The idea that creatures we care about just disappear without anyone saying anything could prove far more terrifying than the physical reality.
    If the fish is already physically gone, explain why that had to be done (health reasons for the other fish, etc.). Likely your son will guide you after that about his needs by the questions he asks. I think Bill Cosby had a great routine based on an elaborate ritual he staged for his child’s dead fish only to have the child really not care all that much.

    Hope this helps!

  2. Katie says:

    Thanks Elizabeth. That is some great advice! I know in my head that a conversation is the best course and you are probably right, it won’t be as big of a deal to him as I am imagining in my head. I especially like the idea of a picture tribute to remember poor little Venom. Thanks again!

  3. I’m probably a bad mom, but I would just wait until he noticed and then have the talk about dead fish. I also have a 4 year old. We had a talk about dead caterpillars, since all the ones he caught this summer died in the bucket.

  4. I know someone who replaced her two year olds dead fish with a carrot carved as a gold fish…her son never noticed the difference.

  5. Katie says:

    So I waited until Jay got home and then we just straight out told him. As Elizabeth predicted, it didn’t seem to phase him too much. There weren’t even any questions. You could see his little brain processing the information for a couple of minutes but in the end he decided his bath was more important. Kids…you stress over the little stuff and then they don’t even care. LOL!

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