Once upon a time my daughter Emma had a fish. His name was George Jefferson. One morning as soon as my daughter in-law had dropped two year-old Mackenzie off at the house for the day, she walked into the living room to see “Mr. Jeff” (as she called him) swimming around in his bowl. Instead of her usual comments, however, I heard, “Nanna, why is Mr. Jeff on the floor?”
Without bothering to go into the living room I answered, “He’s not. He’s in his bowl.”
“He’s on the floor, Nanna,” Mack insisted.
Just about that time she heard Emma coming downstairs from her room. “Emma, Mr. Jeff is on the floor,” Mack said, running toward her.
I decided I’d better go see what Mack was talking about, so I walked into the living room and yep, sure enough, there was Mr. Jeff. He was literally stuck to the wood floor. Dead…graveyard dead. Apparently in the night he had jumped out of his bowl thinking there was more to life than swimming around and around and around. There wasn’t…not for him anyway.
Emma came into the room about the same time I did. She didn’t have but a couple of minutes before she had to walk out the door to wait for the school bus, so she picked up Mr. Jeff, said something to the effect of ‘stupid fish’, walked into the bathroom, and flushed him down the toilet while Mack looked on wide-eyed and open-mouthed.
I answered all of her two year-old questions, but from that day on (until we moved out of that house a year later) Mack wouldn’t use that bathroom. At all—not even to wash her hands. And a few years later when “Finding Nemo” came out, she talked about Mr. Jeff during the ‘escape scene’ in the dentist’s office. I think it’s safe to say Mr. Jeff left quite the impression.
Mack is nine now, but she still remembers finding Mr. Jeff on the floor. She even sees the humor in it now. She’s a farm girl, so it’s not like she hasn’t experienced life and death, but that her first up-close-and-personal experience, so yah, she’s going to remember it.
The point I want to make is that as parents you need to make sure you aren’t giving your kids credit for being more resilient than they really are. Yes, in this instance it was just a goldfish—and not a very smart one, at that. But with everything going on in the world today; school shootings, racial tensions, terrorism, political and religious discriminations, bullying, and oh, so many other things, parents should not…cannot assume answering a few questions is all it takes to set their hearts and minds at ease. To make them feel safe. To make them feel confident. To help them understand their thoughts and feelings.
Be pro-active. Talk. Listen. And most importantly, be discerning in what you expose your kids to. Keep it age-appropriate, please.
Copyright 2018 Darla Noble. No part of this can be used or copied without permission from the author.