Our beloved goldfish "Orange" has died. It was a rough couple of days for my son. Quite honestly, I was very surprised by his reaction to the whole thing. I have seen so many young kids blink blankly at the site of death that I thought he'd be the same way. I thought he would just take it as a matter of fact kinda thing and then we'd go watch SpongeBob. And to be really honest with you, I didn't even consciously think ANY of those things.
One morning last week Wyatt asked me, "Where's Orange?"
We bought Orange a 2 gallon glass bowl to live out his days, and I felt like it would suffice. I opted to skip the air pump since my mother in law and other friends had kept their goldfishes alive in just bowls of water. Maybe that was my first mistake? Anyway, I caught glimpse of Orange belly side up at the bottom of his bowl. I nonchalantly said, "Oh, looks like he's dead..."
"WHAT?! I REALLY LOVED HIM MAMA! MAMA! I REALLY REALLY LOVED HIM. WE GOTTA TAKE HIM TO THE DOCTORS!!!!" and then there was a lot of crying. But not like any old crying, but the kind of crying when your beloved family pet dies. Wyatt was crying for his pet! I felt terrible. I was a little in shock that a goldfish from the fair that lived in our glass bowl for a week messed with his little heart this much.
The conversation after the incident was no less awkward. How do you explain death to a 3 year old? I told him his fish went to sleep for a very, very long time. I have no idea if that was the right thing to say, but he didn't believe me anyway. He said, "No Mama! No he not sleeping!" and then he laughed a little bit because I'm obviously an idiot.
I believe the pain has eased up a little bit for Wyatt, but it was definitely real for him in that moment. I couldn't help but think that I really lack in the explaining death department. I found myself speechless. All I could do was just hold and love on him. I guess that's all you can do when someone is experiencing lost. I really underestimated my 3 year old's feelings and ability to have passion for something. Even if Orange was just a stupid fish, Wyatt was very hurt that he/her/it was no longer with us. I've learned two things from all of this - My 3 year old is totally a little human that can experience loss (duh, I guess I knew that... but didn't really KNOW) and second, I need to be better prepared for situations like this in the future.