As I went to feed the kids’ two behemouth goldfish Friday morning, I noticed that the one dubbed Captain Catfish was pressed strangely against the tank. I gave the tank a little shove and, like a scene straight out of an Alfred Hitchkock horror movie, (or an R-rated version of Nemo) both fish began violently bobbing in the water until finally coming to rest at the surface of the tank. Upside down.
Now, I’m no vet, but something about the way they looked so dead told me that they were…..no longer alive.
When my husband came home from work he properly disposed of our late pets by dumping them into the toilet and sending the little rascals
We decided to postpone telling Superman (Monchichi could have cared less, probably having forgotten that we even had the damn fish minutes after first meeting them over a year ago) until after our Friday tradition of pizza and a family movie (somehow the whole “your pet fish ate it this morning but shhhh, let’s see what Astro Boy will think of next” just didn’t jive well in my head).
Then Superman had to pee.
Which turned out to be rather inconvenient.
Because he ended up seeing the empty fish tank that his daddy accidentally left behind on the bathroom sink.
My adult brain was telling me to shout “They. Were. Just. Stupid. Fish.”
But my mother’s intuition warned me that if I took that route I may be jeapordizing my Mother’s Day gift and I’ll end up with something made out of macaroni and heart shaped doilies and screaming “homemade” (insert shudder) when what mommy really wants is a shiny, plastic, impersonal giftcard.
So I scooped up my heartbroken son and snuggled up to him in my bed.
I tried to cheer him up by telling him about the time I fishsat for my friend who had to go on a trip and she had at least 20 fish in her tank and so I decided to clean the tank and surprise her and so I transferred her fish into a plastic bin and scrubbed the tank out and replaced the filter and made it all purdy and then I went to retrieve the fish and they were all dead, all 20 of them, because I had put them in a bin that had residue from our laundry detergent and isn’t that just the funniest thing, me killing all of those poor, helpless, little fishies and then having to tell my friend that I was a fish murderer and hahahahahah Superman, see? It all works out in the end.
“That’s not very funny mommy,” he whispered, his eyes wide with fear/disgust/confusion/more fear.
I tried to reason with him and explain the life cycle of a fish and that like all living things fish go away and so he asked if everything dies and I said yes, eventually, everything that is alive dies and so he asked about our cats, Charlie and Lola, and I said, yep, when it’s time for them to go back to nature they too will die and then he asked about his brother, his daddy, me, his grandma, his aunt, his teacher, his best friend, his godmother, the entire cast of ICarly and the tooth fairy. Being the
chicken sh!# sensitive mother that I am, I answered with, “Of course not dear.”
I stopped myself from revealing that “Haha, in fact, that was not even the original Captain Catfish anyway, because we had to replace him just weeks after getting him because he went belly up and see, you didn’t even notice that it wasn’t the same fish because. they. are. a. dime. a. dozen.”
I toyed with the always popular “Get over it.”
I finally settled on a promised trip to Petco for more fish
that will also eventually die wreaking continued pain and anguish that we will unconditionally love for the duration of their unpredictable and frail lives.
The Darwin vs. God debate did little to ease the difficulty of a mom struggling to teach her son about loss, acceptance, and that certain things, like fish and obnoxious relatives, are easily replaceable.
I vote for more fake pets, like those creepy little hamsters that keep selling out at Toys R Us.
Then I can just ignore the whole life/death conversation altogether and hope that Great Aunt Edith hangs on long enough for him to learn the facts from some loud-mouthed classmate named Buck whose parents have the nerve to tell him the truth.
I mean, how else do you think Superman’s going to learn about all of the other uncomfortable topics I have no intention of discussing with him?