Very recently, as I was about to put the boys to bed, I spotted something tragic. Their pet fighter fish Sharkeen, (their first pet ever ) had, quite literary, went to its watery grave.
Staring dumbfoundedly at the poor lifeless fish for some seconds, possible options about how to handle the devastating situation flashed through my mind. And, being the self-proclaimed lover of honesty that I am, I decided that I should give the children (pre-schoolers ages three and four) the opportunity to say “goodbye” to their beloved fish. You know, for closure or something..
So very solemnly, I began to tell them; and I chocked. It went something like this “Boys, say “goodbye” to Sharkeen…he’s err…. not well (Lie #1) and he has to go down to the ocean (Lie #2) so that his family can help him get better (Lie #3)…”
The boys began to bawl. Not sulk, or fret, or sniff…but BAWL. Hysterically. At the top of their lungs. With tears pouring down their cute, devastated faces.
Frantic, dotish me, now decide to console them with the truth… “Don’t cry babies. Don’t cry. It’s alright. The truth is that Sharkeen got really sick and he died.”
Heightened bawling. Now with hysterical hiccuping.
Totally frantic, extremely dotish me, finally gets some sense… “Babies. babies, please listen. It’s ok. Sharkeen is in fish heaven. ( Lie #4) He’s safe and happy with all his other fish friends. (Lie #5). Don’t you want him to feel better? He’s no longer trapped in his sick body.”
The boys calm down a little. No longer hysterical, but still crying.
“But Mama, we don’t want him to go to fish heaven…” Now hysterical again, “Make- him- come- bbbaaaaccckkkk!!!”
Quick witted, non-dotish me… “Ok, hear what. Sharkeen just left his body behind, but his spirit is still around. (Lie #6) When fishes die, just like people, they leave their body behind because it’s broken and painful. Remember God could do anything. So I’m sure if you ask Him to give Sharkeen a new body He would. (Lie #7) But it would just take some time…like by tomorrow evening after school. (Lie #8)”
I continue to lie to save my rear, telling them that God would need some time to find a perfect, new body for the fish (Lie #9), that the new body might look a little different because Sharkeen himself might want something different (Lie #10), and that Sharkeen would definitely be back in his bowl (Lie #11) by the time they returned from school the next day.
Now a little bit better…”Mama could we ask God right now?”
I lead them in a prayer that asks God for Sharkeen back in a new body. A twisted, twisted prayer of fabrications….Father forgive me!…
The boys are now comforted, but still go on to make demands about the changes Sharkeen should have (he should be mainly black with green, yellow, brown, pink, orange and blue) so I reassure them that whatever Sharkeen wants (Lie #12), God will give him. Now fully comforted, the boys drop asleep.
The next day, as soon as the bell rings for my lunchbreak, I speed over to the nearest pet shop. “I need a fighter, a young adult, black with bits of blue, green, and a tinge of marroon-red.”
World-savy Pet Shop lady: “Who fish yuh kill?”
Me: Ded* with a wide, sheepish grin.
I select the fish closest in size, a beautiful and healthy Crown Fighter specimen.
Unfortunately, the fish is different in both colour and breed.
Keeping my fingers, toes and eyes crossed, I return home to prepare the fish bowl, and head back to collect the boys.
“Mama is Sharkeen back yet?”
“I’m sure he is.” (Lie #13) They storm upstairs to the bedroom and I patiently await the verdict.
“Yay! He’s back! And he’s still black!”
Me (riding the enthusiasm to cover up the changed breed of fish): “Hey! And he’s turned into a ninja fish too! (Lie #14) Look how cool his fins look!”
They lap up every word of it.
I still feel dirty.
So folks…that concludes my post “How NOT to tell your kids about a pet’s death…” I hope you’ve learnt something valuable. If you did, please let me know, because truthfully, not even I get the lesson here…
Is it that (1) the truth about topic like death at this early age should remain taboo and avoided totally, or that (2) fanciful tales should be spun in such situations to avoid them the heartache? Or is it that (3) if a pet dies, run immediatey down to the pet store and replace it without your children’s knowledge…
Methinks I’ll opt for Option (3) anytime…
RIP: Sharkeen the First.
SUNRISE: Question mark. But bred by Dada at https://www.facebook.com/GreenLivingVereVerdiVictusEnterprises
This fish, given to the boys on Tiriel’s fourth birthday, would be missed unknown to its owners. You remain loved by all of us.