“Daaaa-aaaad, something’s wrong with FELLOOOOOW”. UG, I cringed. “Fellow” is/was Julia’s fish. She just found him dead. Every single possible scenario rushed through my head. Was there going to be screaming, crying, pleading, hysteria, questions about mortality and life and death?
Let me back up. Fellow actually died 3 times. Fellow 1 died 2 weeks after we bought him. No biggie, I grab a new 17 cent fish and BLAM, Fellow 2 is born. Fast-forward to a year later. I’m cleaning Fellow 2’s tank and I’m doing like a water transfusion thing where the little hosey vacuum is sucking out water as I trickle water in from the faucet at the same rate. Little did I know the hot was on a little more than the cold that day. When I went in to check on the transfusion HOLY CRAP, the water was steaming and poor Fellow 2 was boiled and I felt HORRIBLE. But OK, no problem, Julia was at her mom’s, Emily (merrypad) gets me a replacement, Fellow 3 is born.
She’s 4. She’s supposed to be a happy care-free kid, not a moping, goth, full-of-angst kid yet, she can do that in high school.
So, she’s never had a pet die before.
She had a pet cat who “got sick and moved back to the farm with his mommy and daddy”.
She had a pet hamster who amazingly ALSO “got sick and moved back to the farm with his mommy and daddy”. (Well, he wasn’t a pet, he was a hamster at my work, but she thought he was hers, and he actually poked his eye out on his cage and had eye surgery to have his eye removed so he was like an awesome pirate hamster but then died from complications, but I digress).
“Daaaahaaaad, something’s wrong with FELLOW”
So we’re back on track. She went to feed Fellow 3 and he’s as dead as a doornail, belly up, stiff. She pulled the classic “Is he asleep?”. Now I’m sweating, I have no death speech prepared, I’m not ready to talk about how Fellow will live in the dirt now, how bugs will eat his remains and poop him back out as soil. I’m not going to pretend I believe in heaven or god or anything like that, so what do you do?
I came out with it and ad-lib as I go.
Me: Oh honey, I think Fellow is dead. I’m sorry.
Julia: He is?
Me: Yeah hon, I’m sorry, are you OK?
Julia: Can I touch him?
Me: Um, sure, but he’s stiff honey. Are you sure you want to touch him? Are you sad?
Julia: (poke poke) Yes I’m sure (poke poke) Kewl, can we flush him down the toilet?
Me: Um, that’s it? You want to bury him in the yard or anything? Say goodbye?
Julia: Nah, I want to flush him down the toilet. Can we get another fish?
Holy crap, that was that, Fellow 3 went down the terlet. No crying, no questions.
Ok, now’s the part where the touchy-feely daddy bloggers try and force fit a life message in here.
I was amazed by her ability to deal with this. Maybe she’s more enlightened than I thought. Maybe she just realizes fish are disposable. Maybe she’s seen Nemo too many times because she later revealed to me that “Fellow 3 was probably pretending to be dead so we’d flush him into the ocean so he could go see his daddy”, or is that one of the stages of grieving?
Now we have a beta fish she named “Rainbow Fish” and I have no idea what to say when HE dies.