Why You Can't Throw Your Brother in the Trash

The other morning my oldest son and I walked downstairs onto the main floor of the house to a very sad sight. Two of our three fish were dead, floating in the fish tank. We were in a hurry and I needed to get my son in the car to take him to school, but we made enough time for a fast fishy funeral, ending with a quick flush down the toilet. On our way to school we had a brief discussion about mortality (isn't that the reason we buy our kids pets anyway?) but no tears were shed. My son actually seemed more interested in when we could buy more fish than the fact that two of his pets had died.

In his defense, I wasn't completely surprised that the fish had died either.

You see the night before, my 2-year old had proudly dumped half the canister of fish food into the tank. He was trying to be a good helper, but overestimated the appetite of three small fish. I scooped out as many of the flakes as I could and thought I had gotten enough of it out. Apparently I hadn't, as overnight the tank filtration system became overworked, clogged and died along with two of the more glutenous fish.

After I had taken my son to school, I came back home and the younger two kids and I thoroughly cleaned out the tank, replaced the water, and went to the pet store to buy a new filtration system and a few replacement fish.

During nap time I got the new filter set up and introduced our three new pets to their tank. I quickly noticed that one of the fish did not have a back tail. At first I was a little mad at the store, wondering why they would give me a fish with no tail. Then I was mad at myself for not paying better attention; I was too busy pulling the kids away from the parakeets and puppies to notice which of the million fish from the tank were put into my plastic baggie.

Our new fish, creatively named "Taily" by the kids.

In the end I am not sure if the fish came to our home this way, or if he got stuck in our new filter (think Finding Nemo) but he does not have a back tail at all. I went online and checked to see if it will grow back, and from what I found, it should. He seems to be moving around okay, but he mostly swims vertically rather than horizontally. It looks very different, but he gets to where he needs to go just fine.

When my daughter got up from her nap and checked out the fish tank, she noticed our new tailless friend right away. She looked at the fish funny and asked if we could bring him back to the store. I thought about what she said. 

I hadn't really thought about bringing him back to the store (he was literally on sale for $1) but in her mind, if he was broken, he needed discarded. Then I thought about how a good lesson could be learned here.

"Honey, should be bring him back or try to keep him?"

"Hmmmm," she pondered for a moment. "We should bring him back to the store."

"But can't we try to take care of him here at home?" I asked.

"No let's bring him back and get a new one," she said definitively. 

"But fish are alive. Just because it needs a little help, doesn't mean we shouldn't try to take care of him."

"Okay....?" she said, obviously not really understanding.

"Well let's think about your big brother. His eyes don't work very well, but instead of throwing him away, we bought him glasses that helped him see better," I said.

"Well, actually mom, he wouldn't fit in the trash," she said. (That was a good point, I guess).

"I think we should try to take care of him," I said.

"Okay," she said, shrugging. "He can be our new fish."

Hopefully the little fish will live long enough for his tail to grow back, because I truly do believe a good lesson in life can be learned from this. My daughter is only four, but taking care of and supporting others is a lesson that one is never to young to learn.

What I found most interesting about this story is that my oldest son, when he got home from school, ran to the fish tank and said, "Which one is mine?"

We had our old faithful catfish that survived the overfeeding, we added a new beautiful zebra looking fish, we added a colorful neon orange tetra, and then we of course added our poor little tailless blue fish. 

Before I could answer my son (my son who wears glasses), he looked at the one with no tail and said, "Oh I want the little blue one without a tail! He is so cute, he can be my fish. He is so special."

Tears came to my eyes and I smiled. I am so happy we didn't return our new fish.

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