Would you give goldfish as a party favor for your child's birthday bash? I know what you're thinking, what's wrong with tiny fish-shaped cheese crackers?!? And, I'd say nothing (save the artificial ingredients). But, I digress. I'm actually asking, would you give each attendee of your kid's party a REAL, LIVE, BREATHING, POOPING, EATING FISH in a bowl?
If you're reading this thinking, "what a cute idea!" let me make a suggestion, don't do it. Just buy the crackers. Because when you give an actual fish, what you are really giving is a headache, an unnecessary conversation about death with a toddler, a new reason for parents to lie, and an expensive trip to the pet store to perpetuate the lie to avoid further conversations about fish heaven.
SPOILER ALERT Parents and Party Planners: The. Fish. Dies. Every. Time. Fish can't live in the tiny bowl you throw the ping pong ball in at the state fair, or the flower vase you pass off as a home because it fit the theme of your tots too extravagant party.
Our story began... when we received a birthday fishy from a friend…who had attended a fish soiree and was moving so she couldn't keep it. We laughed as she brought the little bowl, food and fish over on Oscar night, and Tiny excitedly named the newest addition to our family Starlet, of course.
That night she kissed Starlet's bowl before she went off to bed. We stayed up til midnight watching real starlets cry over golden statues, gave Starlet a quick peek..snug as a bug in her little bowl…and went to bed.
The next morning hubs got up at 5 a.m. to play basketball. And thank god, because while packing his gym bag he noticed our little Starlet had gone belly up. That's right folks, she was floating less than 24 hours after the birthday party.
Now, we were faced with two choices…sink or swim. Having just lost Hugo a few month prior, we could not bear the thought of telling Tiny another pet had gotten sick and gone to heaven. How would she ever trust a pet could live?! So we did what any sane and really tired parents would do…we lied.
We devised a plan so devious and so ridiculous that we weren't sure even a three year old would buy it. But we hung our hats on this plan and fully committed. We would tell Tiny she seemed a little sick and daddy thought he better take Starlet to work to ask his friends for help. She'd never know he had stopped at the pet store on the way home and picked up a new Starlet.
As hubs flushed our scaly friend under the cover of darkness, I laid in bed. "Maybe we don't need to worry, maybe she won't even remember we had Starlet," I mused. "Hide the bowl."
Two hours later, I'm still lying in bed and I hear her breathing before I see her. Tiny, the creeper, is in my face and I swear to God, before I've even opened my eyes, the question is out of her mouth, "Mommy, where's Starlet?" It's go time…yawn, stretch, you've got to sell this.
I sit up. "Well, honey, daddy got up early to play basketball and he noticed Starlet was looking a little sluggish. He thought he better take her to work and see if his friends could help her."
Tiny, in all her inquisitive glory, studies my words and my face…I can tell she's trying to decide if I'm full of shit (which I absolutely am). After a few seconds she decides to believe me…maybe its pity, maybe she knows the truth is worse than the lie, or maybe she actually buys it. It doesn't matter the reason…she says, "huh, that's weird. But, what did Starlet do while daddy was playing basketball?"
The spin doctor in me is intricately weaving my tale of deceit, "she watched."
The rest of the day passes with only a few little exchanges about dear Starlet. Hubs rolls in about 6 p.m. with "Starlet" and BAGS of stuff. B-A-G-S….this free fish is costing a lot more than an honest relationship with our child. It's costing us actual money too.
Long story short, pet store guy explained to hubs that fish can't live in little bowls because their poop kills them. We'd have to buy a new Starlet every day unless we upgraded to a tank and filter. But Hubs doesn't stop there…he gets pink rocks, and fake plants, and a light.
Tiny studies Starlet 2.0…after careful inspection, she exclaims "Starlet grew!" And, she did A LOT. Apparently the pet store was out of size small.
"Aw, she looks so cute."
With this we realize we are in the clear. Tiny believes that this new, bigger fish, with a bigger house and fancy rocks IS Starlet. Starlet will stay in her room. The tank will be her night-light, and girl and fish will, at last, live happily ever after.
That is until....I get this little text from Hubs as he's putting Tiny to bed.