It's just another fish story.
One day a little boy arrived home from a playdate. Except it wasn’t a regular playdate, he’d been to a local festival. A festival that included carnival games. And a certain carnival game that he turned out to be quite adept at.
He stood on the front porch. Home to celebrate and share his victory with his people! His big eyes danced with excitement. His smile was spread so wide that his cheeks almost reached his lashes. His joy - palpable. And clutched within each small fist, was a plastic bag… holding actual goldfish.
His mom greeted him at the door. She hadn’t expected to add any other living creatures, of any species, to her “keep alive” to-do list that day. She knew the care of those little fish would largely fall upon her. She already felt fully used up. She reeeaaally didn’t like fish. No, she did not want any fish.
But she reached forward. She embraced and cheered for her boy’s ‘big catch,’ …and carried the fish inside.
An aquarium was purchased. All the fish tank gear and the stinky fish food flakes too. And the trophy fish had a shiny new home.
The little boy smiled again. He bounced as he hurried to show his siblings.
The mom, she might have grumbled some. But she hugged her little guy and told him how happy she was that he was happy.
And those carnival fish, the kind that so often die the first day… they lasted.
They remained such a source of pride for that little boy.
They remained never much liked by the mom.
There were lots of regular days and all the regular fishy care.
And there were days that felt extra. Once, the power was out at the family’s home for five days, and the temperatures were freezing. The parents loaded the kids into the van to head to grandma and grandpa’s house. But not before the mom went back into the frozen home, to find the biggest mason jar in the basement and scoop each fish into it. A jar that served as a ‘travel tank,’ and was squeezed tight between her feet the whole van ride there.
Because caring for those darn fish, on a regular day or an extra day, was really about caring for that little boy.
But then there was another day. The daylight ran out, as often happens, before the mom had checked everything off her list. So she ducked into her little guy's room while he slept to clean the tank. She followed all the same steps she usually did – or at least she thought so. Except when morning came, the little boy called to her. Those prize fish had died. Something, ever so slightly but ever just enough, must have been different/wrong in what she did while she cleaned the tank. Tired will do that.
The fish that she never wanted, that she never liked, that she rolled her eyes about sometimes, were finally gone.
But she was broken hearted.
Because her boy was broken hearted.
She reached forward again and embraced him. She comforted him.
And that little boy, he looked up at his mom, and he comforted her too.
It’s just another fish story.
But really, it’s the things we’ll do for the ones we love, and the ways they’re learning to love because of it. It’s… motherhood.
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