Sunday, May 2, 2010

R.I.P. Cutie (And it's all Mommy's fault)

I once heard it said that giving your child a pet fish is one way to introduce him to the realities of death.

And now we know all about that.

When we gave Caleb an aquarium filled with five fish for Christmas, we told him that they needed to eat three times a day - whenever he was eating a meal, he should feed his fish.

But, it is easy for a little boy to forget.

And that means that I was constantly reminding him. And his response was almost always, "Oh, Mom, I forgot. Can you do it for me?"

Pretty soon I decided that I had enough other responsibilities without always making sure that Molly, Orangie, Cutie, Frankie, and Frankie Jr. were getting their tummies full.

It was time to let my son carry the weight of his own responsibilities. And if somebody went belly-up, well, it would be a hard but natural lesson about taking care of things that belong to us.

And last night it happened. My husband came out of the boys' room with a grim look.

"We have a floater," he announced.

In the moments that followed, there was the shock of disbelief.

There was grief and despair. "Orangie was my favorite one!" Um, actually it was Cutie. "Well, Cutie was really my favorite one!"

There was a big sister who got right to the heart of the matter. "Caleb, did your feed your fish at all today??"

And in that moment when realization dawned on his tender face, there was a Mom whose resolve weakened.

Now I know it is important to allow children to have natural consequences, but discovering that you're guilty of negligent homicide when you're only six suddenly seemed a little extreme, so I rushed in to bail him out.

"Oh, buddy, I'm sure that it wasn't your fault. One day of not eating wouldn't kill a fish." I reassured him.

"Well," he said as the tears came in earnest, "I don't think I fed them yesterday either."

I continued to soothe his guilt anyway, trying to ignore the fact that I was enabling his irresponsibility.

But the ungrateful little child didn't even hesitate to throw me under the bus a mere two minutes later.

"Well, it's all Mommy's fault anyway," he sniffed from Daddy's lap. "Because she bought the cheap food from Target instead of getting it from the pet store like you're supposed to."

It makes precious little difference where you buy the fish flakes if you don't ever give it them, I wanted to tell him.

But I bit my tongue.

"Maybe now would be a good time to feed the other fish," I suggested instead.

But he was busy grieving.

"Oh, Mom, can you do it for me?"


Anonymous said...

I'm a little bit nervous - we just bought Livvy her first fish. She has the opposite problem - she always wants to feed the fish! Only 3 times a day is not enough!


debby94 said...

Oh no! You fish killer! I had to laugh while reading this, I hope you forgive me. How's Caleb doing today? I would totally do the same thing that you did, try to soothe him & then I could see them throwing me under the bus. It's always mommy's fault, you know?