Meet our Siamese Fighting Fish (a.k.a. Betta), Twilight. Or Moonstone. (My daughter was on an after-the-gloaming naming kick. She also has a plush unicorn named "Dusky".) The other fish looks just like this one, or at least he did. We came home after a night out of town to find that one of our two azure aquatic friends had bitten the dust. (Note to self: Must look into origins of bizarre saying 'biting dust'.) Now cue "Common Parenting Dilemma." We've seen it in the movies many times: Guy loses girl's dog, buys lookalike dog, excruciating plot ensues.
What to do? Do we flush the fish, run out to the store and pray they have another navy blue betta? Or do we tell the kids the truth? My kids are both very sensitive (even at ages 7 and 6, they can't watch Happy Feet), so I try to spare them unnecessary harsh realities of life at their tender age, like what "terrorist" means, the details of tsunamis that kill twenty thousand people, and let them think there's just the one, benign definition of a "drive by".
So, to my own surprise, I'm opting for the truth on this one. Perhaps if they were younger, I'd scramble to buy a doppleganger, but right now they are in a good place to hear and understand the simple lesson of loss this opportunity presents. Yes, I did flush Moonstone in privacy after his twilight moments, because he was a little funky. I think an empty dish is symbolic enough without the image of their pet floating upside-down, with empty, gray fish eyes staring at them.
I must say that I am a little concerned that they didn't notice the absence of Moonstone until the second day of his absence, even after their daily chore of feeding the fish. Sensitive they may be, but observant? No.
When have you been faced with sparing the child or using the moment to teach or simply step out of the way to let them experience life, in its harshness? Did you take your young child to a funeral? Explain a difficult topic rather than dancing around it? Any regrets or things you would have done differently? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
(To be continued....)