Lessons From the Fish Tank

For my son’s tenth birthday, we bought him a fish tank for his bedroom. He has only begged for one for years. After having had fish in a fishbowl for four years, my husband wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of cleaning out a larger tank. My son, like any new parent would be, could only see the silver-scaled lining.

He did his research, knew what fish were compatible, knew just how he wanted his tank to look. He spent as much time preparing for his fish as I did for his impending arrival. Unlike us, he had a choice in what he could bring home, and we made many visits to the pet store before he did. Reminiscent of candy store jars, fish of every rainbow color darted in every direction, making it nearly impossible to choose the perfect ones. It required patience, persistent timekeeping, and gentle persuasion on our part to get him moving in the direction of anyone with a net.

In his room, he stood in front of their new home with dreamy eyes and oohed and aahed over them, watching and laughing like any new parent would. Everything they did was just wonderful. He was relieved when his three-year-old mosquitofish was accepted into his tetras’ school. “Look, he made a friend.” I know just how my son feels.

“Mom, come see where my catfish is hiding! Oh, you missed it. He was in the pirate ship, actually in it!” Oh, that silly catfish.

As it was time to expand the family, my husband happily took my son to the pet store. They came home with brilliant orange platyfish. The guppies bullied one of them. My son hovered. He worried. He felt helpless. “Hey, leave him alone!”

Every day after school, my son has checked on his fish, fed them, watched them. One day I had to tell him a platy died. “I knew something was going to happen to him today,” my son said. Quiet. Tears. It was his fault. He knew it was. He had dropped the bag in the car.

Another trip to the pet store, another platy.

“Mom, one of my fish has spots on it.”

Ick. Yes, ich. A fish disease. Another trip to the pet store. Some blue medicine for everyone. “Hey, don’t touch that guy! He’s the sick one.” Son, now you feel my pain.

It all goes with the territory of being a parent. I think he’s starting to get it. I think now he’s schooled.

Aquarium Inhabitants 05

(Photo credit: Capt Kodak)

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27 Comments

Filed under Boy Stories

27 responses to “Lessons From the Fish Tank

  1. ooohh fish look fun. I’ve never seen them up close before. Nice and pretty. XOXO – Bacon

  2. So sweet, your son’s level of caring and worry about his fish. You guys are awesome parents to provide him with this experience. I do not envy you when it comes time to clean the tank. I am not a fish person and do a rather poor job of keeping our little fishs’ bowls clean.

  3. MJ

    We used to have fish. Oscars, catfish, pacus… We had some of those big tanks, too.

    Fish can be fun, but I do not miss cleaning the tank. Although they get large, oscars are super fun. Lots of personality, believe it or not. I kid you not, ours would jump out of the water to feed. We’d hold the food just above the water, and he’d jump to get it. I think they’re called the dogs of the fish world.

    We’d also hand-feed our catfish. Fun stuff. Again, I don’t miss cleaning those tanks. 🙂

    • I hope my son never hears about a fish that can do that trick. He would want it. I have no doubt that when he’s older he’ll have a house full of animals because we’ve deprived him of them in his childhood. Though maybe not if we make him clean the tank, eh?

  4. We’re about to get a cat. Because of the children, not the adults. I shall use this post to fortify myself with the emotional strength needed to get a pet I do not really want.

    They can learn from this, they can learn from this, it will be okay…

    • One reason we don’t have furry pets is because of allergies. We’re all allergic to cats and several of us are allergic to dogs that shed. That makes it tricky to find a dog that wouldn’t make us sneeze. And who wants to fall in love with an animal only to find out weeks later that you are allergic to it? So we’re stuck with scales for now.

      And yes, they will learn from it. And you will be the one to fall in love with that cat, ya know. It will be YOUR cat. 😉

  5. Pets (especially fish) teach children about death and responsibility. He’s doing well. X

    • Fish definitely teach a lot about death. I always dread that question, “Where’d you put the body?” I never know whether the flush, trash, or funeral is what he wants to hear. After one funeral, he’s good with “We got rid of it.”

  6. oh you silly catfish! love. glad your son is appreciating the gift. it’s a wonderful, annoying one. 😉 my son begged for that bearded dragon and my husband and i are taking care of him. the up side, is he won’t care when he dies.

  7. I like the way you sequence the events. Am always looking out for a post from you.
    Yes, children have to learn about bereavement someday. What better way to start, than with a fish.

  8. That sounds like one of my diary entries when I was 10 years old, worrying sick about my tropical fish. Now I have no fish, 2 kids and a whole world of bigger worries:).

    • I guess it does help prepare him for something. I can hear it now. When he’s the one worrying about his kids, I’ll say, “Remember when you were little and you worried about your fish, and they turned out all right?” Yeah, he’ll still be rolling his eyes at me.

  9. What a great way to teach him the lessons of life! Such a lovely experience, and thanks for sharing. I don’t envy the cleaning though!

  10. Lovely post. Smart and sweet. Good luck with the fish!

  11. I nominated you for the Liebster Award. I know there’s alot of blog awards so do with it what you’d like. If you want to read what I wrote, check it out at http://facetsoflucy.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/an-award/ and accept it as praise for your blog.

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