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.