Yesterday morning I was tasked with the unpleasant job of telling the girls that their sickly, high-maintenance fish had finally died. That also including what we were going to do with/about the dead fish. Zach and I had discussed it and determined it would be best to let the girls have a chance to say goodbye to the fish, rather than just flushing him away before they woke up. So over breakfast I told them that Raindrop had died the night before (we had been preparing them that this was a possibility since Raindrop had been sinking to the bottom of the tank and refusing to eat for over a week). Zoey immediately asked, “Can we bury him?” I was forced to be honest and tell her that I didn’t think we could bury Raindrop in our yard because all the neighborhood cats would dig him up and eat him. I quickly followed that up with, “Since Raindrop loved the water so much, what we can do is flush him down the toilet and send him to a Special Watery Place.”
Yes, I actually led them to believe that the toilet leads to a Special Watery Place. Judge me all you want, but I was being faced down with two sets of wide, teary eyes and trembly lips. What else could I have done? So we sang a little goodbye song (“Goodbye Raindrop. Goodbye Raindrop. Goodbye Raindrop, we’re sad to see you go.”) and flushed him on his merry way.
I had decided I wasn’t going to offer the idea of buying a new fish, because I didn’t want to send the idea of a living creature being replaceable. Hey kids! I know your friend died but don’t worry, I’ll just buy you a new friend! With Amazon Prime shipping he’ll be here in two days! Just doesn’t really send the right message, know what I mean? Anyway, I didn’t say a word about getting another fish, but only minutes after telling them about Raindrop (and before she had even really processed it, I think) Eleanor asked, “Can we get another fish?”
I immediately agreed (Zach and I had already talked about it and new we were more than likely going to end up with another fish). Eleanor continued to be sad about the loss of her fish for the rest of the day. I gave her lots of snuggles and talked about how Raindrop knew we really loved him and did our best to take care of him. After Zoey went to school in the afternoon, Eleanor told me, “Mommy, I’m still really sad about Raindrop.” I cuddled her and sang an old country song about “How can I help you to say goodbye?” Then I tucked her in for her nap.
When she woke up, Eleanor immediately told me, “I had such a silly dream! I dreamed Raindrop was swimming and dancing in the water!” She seemed to be genuinely happy and comforted by this dream, so I smiled and hugged her and hoped she was ready to move on.
For her part, Zoey told me, “I’m sad, but not too sad.” Yeah, she’s doing fine.
When Zoey got home from school, we piled in the van and headed to the pet store to pick out a new fish. The girls were super excited and surprisingly quick to agree on a new fish. On the way home, we talked about what to name him. Zoey liked the name Rainbow for his middle name because it was sort of like Raindrop and also fit with his pearlescent (“rainbow colored” to toddlers) body. I pointed out that it was also a nice choice because “Rainbows come after the raindrops.” As for his first name, I suggested we chose the name of a famous or important person who had done something good. I was about to suggest some ideas, but the girls beat me to it. What holiday did we just have last week? Martin Luther King, Jr Day, and I had tried to teach the girls a bit of what it was about.
I present to you, Martin Rainbow Clegg! May he live a long life!