Embracing the joy on my son’s face over his first pet fish

My wife and I are not pet people. We like animals, don’t get me wrong. We’ll pet dogs and play with cats, be entertained by their idiosyncrasies and comforted by their companionship.

My son's first pet fish

We just like it better when we can leave them in the houses of the owners to whom they belong.

I guess you can say we don’t particularly like the idea of owning a pet because of the responsibility that comes with it, among other things.

In no particular order, here are a few of the primary reasons I don’t like the idea of pet ownership.

  1. They cost a lot.
  2. They’re messy and destroy things.
  3. They’re dependent and take away your autonomy.
  4. You have to clean up their poop.
  5. They die.

Yes, it’s true: the same things can be said about children. But don’t even try to compare humans to animals. It’s not the same thing.

With all that said, we were kind of forced into pet ownership this weekend when my son “won” a goldfish playing a game in an event at his school. And when I say “forced,” I’m talking about choosing between reluctantly accepting the fish or saying “no” to a child’s joyful face.

Of course, we took the former.

And as our son kept beaming all night and into the morning, we thought, “Now, what did we get ourselves into?” 

The first thing we knew we had to do was get a small aquarium, some decor for it, food and other necessities. After all, we do have hearts and don’t want the thing to die in an empty fish bowl in solitude. We ran out to the pet store and bought more than $100 in supplies. (See #1 from the list above: They cost a lot.)

The next thing we realized is that we’re going to Disney World soon. Who are we going to get to come over and feed that sucker — if he lasts that long, of course? (See #3: They’re dependent and take away your autonomy.)

Then, of course, we realized the responsibility of feeding that thing every day and periodically cleaning his tank was going to be just one more little task to add to the laundry list of duties one must complete with little kids in the house. (Cleaning the tank of dirty water is hardly picking up giant turds, still… see #4: You have to clean up their poop.)

Lastly, we had to tell our son multiple times not to expect this fish to live very long. Because, well, fish don’t live very long, especially with people who don’t really know what they’re doing. But when this fish does die, we’re not just going to abandon the aquarium and dash our boy’s excitement. Besides, we’re already financially invested. So, we fully intend to get new fish when this one goes. And then those fish will die. And the cycle will continue. (See #5: They die.)

At least fish aren’t messy, nor do they destroy things. Still, four out of five checkmarks on my list of negatives for pet ownership is not what I’d call an ideal weekend.

But I don’t want to be a fuddy-duddy, a killjoy, or a grinch. If it makes my son happy, if he feeds it and helps take care of it and continues to show an active interest, that’s good enough for me.

We’ll figure out the rest as we go.

Ryan Glab
Ryan Glab
A Christian, conservative man seeking an open mic and a stage in the crowded, clamorous barroom of life. Fear God, love Jesus, and always seek truth.