Killing the Beta

I feel pretty good about keeping things alive. I mean, I have two children and have managed to keep them healthy, safe and happy for 5 ½ years and 2 years respectively. Over the years I have kept gardens, potted plants, and dogs and they have all, for the most part, thrived. Except when I don’t water the plants and actually take care of them; I will admit I have been guilty of neglecting my plants. But, when I actively take care of something, it tends to live except for the Beta fish.

My daughter wanted her very own pet about three months ago. She promised to take care of it, love it, watch it, read to it, and dance for it. I liked the idea and thought since she was newly 5 it would be a nice thing to do for her. So, as a family, we all set off to the pet store to purchase a fish. I was hopeful and gaining “cool mom” credits by the minute. I was excited for her to have purpose and learn responsibility. Plus, I thought it would be peaceful and soothing to have a fish to watch swimming around.

Three months later, my daughter completely lost interest in the fish and I was feeding and washing its bowl. This seemingly peaceful fish was stinky and the weekly bowl cleaning was just about the last thing I wanted to be doing among the gazillion other things taking up my days. So, I let it slide to two week cleanings instead of one. But then I felt bad and got back on track until I saw the fish looking kinda fishy (cheesy pun intended.) It started getting slow and funky-looking until it died. Operation: get replacement fish ensued.

My partner in crime, aka husband, went “to the vet” otherwise known as the pet store to “get the fish well”, aka buy a new fish. We covertly got the fish; put it in the bowl and bam! Fish is “healthy again” without a certain 5 year old knowing any different. I was relieved that the crisis was averted and we could go about our business; of course with me sighing every time I washed the stinky bowl. But I was still happy that my girl didn’t have to deal with pet death quite yet. My crime partner and I discussed the pros and cons of even having a fish and I decided that when this fish dies, we are done!

Then, the next fish died only one month after we got him. He died two months faster than the first. So, I began wondering, “Am I unknowingly murdering my precious daughter’s fishies??” I consult friends and family on the complicated business of fish handling and they all agree I am doing it correctly. So, maybe I am just bad mojo to the fish? I actually found it all very concerning.

I tried to discuss the issue with my daughter and it immediately resulted in tears and how she must have her fish friend to keep her company and she promises to take better care of it and feed it if she could just get the hang of how not to over or under feed it. She begs and of course, I relent. How can I not with those precious pleading eyes, knowing that I probably killed it in the first place? So, this time I go on the mission alone as the partner is at work and my daughter is with her Nana. I walk with determination into the pet store, find the first worker I see, and plead my case that I am not knowingly killing the fish. He looks at me with a bored expression and basically tells me I’m doing it all correctly with a couple of suggestions thrown in for good measure. But basically, “they are fish; they die quickly unless you’re lucky.”

I got home and was all jazzed up about fish #3 but guilt began rising to the surface as I actually flushed a half-dead Beta down the toilet. I had the new fish in hand, what was I to do? I suppose there was no really good answer. The semi-alive fish or my daughter’s emotional well-being became the question and the answer was obvious. But…the fish? I cringed as he went down the toilet drain but began convincing myself that maybe he would have a better life; maybe that was where he was meant to be, not in a little bowl. Then, reality comes to me and I say to myself, “why the hell would any living thing be better off in a sewer, you moron?!” Yet, the guilt continues but I move on knowing that I’m getting a bit “hung up” and it’s time to move forward hoping karma does not pay back too hard on that one.

So, here we are with fish #3 and I am hoping that I can keep it alive. It is now becoming like a game to me as to how long I can keep a Beta fish living. Round #3 is going to be the charm!…until I get tired of dealing with the stinky bowl again.

5 thoughts on “Killing the Beta

  1. After our kids lost interest in the goldfish that we bought for them,my husband transferred them to an old wheelbarrow under a tree in the garden. They ate whatever little beasties landed in the water and lived for years. Couldn’t believe it. Some rocks and plants and we had no goldfish bowl to clean out either!x

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