Parenting: Pet fish by the pound

28 Aug

“Good morning, Gil. I said, good morning, Gil.”

Ahh, summer carnival season. It’s almost over, but if you’re lucky enough, you have one keepsake or two from that special night you spent with your family. Close your eyes and you can almost smell it. That warm June night where you dropped $85 on nine (9) rides (of dubious construction and unknown operator sobriety), one (1) funnel cake, five (5) chances on the balloon dart game (Beyonce poster, yes!), two (2) orders of cheese fries, a few spins of the wheel at the chuck-a-luck table, and five (5) chances to get a ping pong ball into a vase for a goldfish.

Carnival goldfish. It’s exciting to win “stuff” at a carnival, but winning a LIVING thing is just the apex of prize winning. You win a soul. I mean, a soul that will probably only live between 6 and 18 hours, that doesn’t feel empathy, that you can’t pet, and that cost the carnival ~$.015–but a soul nonetheless. If the good people who run these carnivals really thought about it, they would sell little “goldfish starter kits” for $20 right next to the game. (Small tank, canister of food, bag of rocks. Boom.) But, alas, the carnival cooperatives haven’t decided to do this quite yet. You cross your fingers that your goldfish makes it home alive (or not, perhaps) and then you scrounge around in your garage at 11:00 PM trying to find your old tank. Or worse, you grab the big ricotta cheese container you’ve been saving with the rest of your Tupperware (clean, preferably), fill it with water and tell yourself, “just for tonight.”

Carnival goldfish inevitably enable us to teach our kids about the circle of life. In a way, the carnival people might be providing one of the greatest services to us parents. We get the opportunity to discuss life and death with our kids. Understand care and feeding. Feel love for something that relies on you. Create burial practices, understand loss. Conversely, this “prize” allows parents to lie and deceive our children by any means possible (another great skill to hone to deflect discussing one of life’s difficult issues) to replace the dead fish with a similar looking one before the kid finds “the floater.”

When my kids won a goldfish this year at the fair, ONE goldfish, they decided to spend $100 of their birthday money on a 10 gallon tank setup the next day (complete with kitschy “No Fishing” sign, faux plants, “deep sea” backsplash, rocks, and the all important filter.) I have to admit, it was kind of cool to have a nice tank after all these years. I thought this new guy had a fighting chance.

If you can keep the fish–or a series of lookalikes–great. You’ve succeeded. However, if you’re like most people, even with a fancy schmancy new fish tank, the fish die and you are left with an empty tank. You can perform an unceremonious flush of the deceased, or have an all out funeral (with eulogy and burial.) I’ve had both and everything in between.

At a certain point, the death of your fish is no longer a sad event for everyone, it’s just annoying. Trip after trip to the pet store to pick up the next round of goldfish becomes onerous. There had to be an easier way.

The last time we went fishing, we caught a lot of bluegill and sunfish. A lot. I usually just let the kids catch them and then release them back into the lake. But I just kept thinking of that empty tank. That sad empty tank. Fast forward two hours to our 10 gallon tank full of 4 inch pan fish. I had just been to LL Bean store and they seemed to be *thriving* in their tanks at the retail location. Well, I never thought I’d say this out loud, but the next day I muttered, “I really hope that bluegill doesn’t get stuck in the toilet.”

So, what I’ve decided to do now, is to go down to the local bait shop and buy minnows. Yes, minnows. They are pretty hearty, they are active in the tank, and the best part, they are sold…by the pound. I’ve resorted to buying my pets based on weight. It’s come to this.

Thank God I didn’t have to buy my beagle this way.

“Gunner. ‘Big boned’ like his mom.”

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7 Responses to “Parenting: Pet fish by the pound”

  1. Kristen Albright August 28, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    This had me cackling out loud! You are the best, Allie. In my family, we have had many carnival fish. Believe it or not, though, it is me who strives to win one every year. My kids couldn’t care less. Last year, the guy working the stand gave me a *pity fish* because I had spent so much money trying to win one.

  2. P Joe August 29, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

    I guess from a childs perspective, it is the experience that matters.I guess from a childs perspective, it is the experience that matters.

  3. pjoeman@gmail.com August 30, 2012 at 12:02 am #

    Great tips. Just watch out for pellets that expand.

  4. naimavanswol August 30, 2012 at 2:54 am #

    Ok, soThe last of our carnival fish from the Westmoreland County Fair just but the dust. We scooped him outta the tank and my son has yet to notice. This post is brilliant!

    • motherallie August 30, 2012 at 8:36 am #

      Ha! Time to go down to Lock 3 Bait and Tackle in Harmar. 🙂

  5. In-House Counsel August 30, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

    This is really well written and funny. Love your ending. As the mother of four boys and veteran burier of fish, gerbils, hamsters, and guinea pigs- and, sadly, a 14 year old overweight beagle- I can relate! We had an outdoor pond for a while with minnows we caught in the lake. Until beagle dog ate them.

    • motherallie August 30, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

      Oh, thank you! I really look forward to reading more of your posts–I’ve enjoyed everything so far. Mothers of boys really do share a special bond. -A

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