I had a quintessential parenting moment today. To fully understand the magnitude of it, I have to back up a bit…
About three weeks ago, my husband and I took the girls to the county fair. After eating our fair (ha! No pun intended) share of garlic fries, corn on the cob, and deep fried Oreos for good measure, we wandered our way to the kid area, complete with the requisite rides and overpriced games that yield subpar stuffed animals. Nonetheless, we got caught up in the romanticism of it all, and paid far too much money to let our older daughter shoot a watergun at a target that would pop a balloon. You know the one – the race to fill the balloon, and the winner gets the aforementioned stuffed animal.
Well, we came in second (out of two), and though our daughter tried to act brave, her disappointment spilled out in tears down her cheeks. I did my best to explain to a three year old the concept of “you win some, you lose some,” but still, her sadness was palpable. So, we sought out another game, one where our odds of winning were better and a prize was guaranteed. Apparently at the fair, the only guaranteed win is the one you pay for. So, we doubled down and played the fish game. Yep, the one where you throw ping pong balls into jars to win your very own pet goldfish. Not a single ping pong ball made it in the jar, but a few extra bucks guaranteed a win, and, yes, bought a bit of our daughters’ happiness. Best $10 we ever spent.
As the proud owners of two new goldfish, our girls have spent the last few weeks feeding the fish, changing their water, naming them (Anna and Elsa, of course) and marveling at their fish faces. Then, last night as I was tucking them into bed, I noticed one of the fish had gone belly up. So, I slyly took the bowl to the kitchen and told our oldest that I was going to change the water.
“Just don’t spill them down the sink,” she told me. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it wasn’t the sink where the fish would be spilled, but rather down the toilet.
And that brings us to today, where I went to Petco and dished out $0.31 to replace the flushed fish. The girls are none the wiser, still marveling at their fish and completely oblivious to Anna, or Elsa, being a stand-in for the original.
However, the few coins I spent today represent more than a fish. They represent a parent’s desire to protect her kids. To keep them happy. To keep the “bad things” away. To shield them from pain. Though plenty of people (and probably some of you reading this) would argue that I should have used the death of a goldfish as an opportunity to teach an important life lesson, I couldn’t do it. Life is full of teachable moments and I opted to skip this one in favor of protecting my kids a bit longer from some of life’s harsh realities. Raising kids is a perpetual dance in protecting our little ones and setting them free, teaching them the values we hope they will carry with them when we’re not around, and eventually seeing them make their own mark on the world.
And, let’s be honest, in a few weeks I’ll likely be faced with a similar choice – teachable moment or dishing out another thirty-one cents.
On a related side note, the saga of our goldfish reminded me of a scene from one of the best TV shows of all time – The Cosby Show.