One Fish


I think our family fish is on the way out. Flounder is a little over a year old now and is starting to lose some of his luster. I recognize that any morning I could wake up to find my dear friend departed, belly up. How am I going to explain this to my kids? Now, I am fully cognizant of the fact that he is just a fish; he’s not a dog, a cat, or other pet that could curl up on a lap, go for a walk, or provide a cozy kind of companionship. That being said, it is really going to be hard to let him go; He has become a part of our lives and in so doing, has definitely exceeded all of my expectations. (None of the fish I owned as a child lasted longer than a few days.)

As you may have guessed, my husband and I are not huge pet people. (The bleak survival rate of my childhood fish should have been a huge tip-off.) We figure we get enough wild life while attempting to raise our three children. Unfortunately, having siblings was not enough for these kids; they wanted a pet of their own. After much begging, pleading, and whining, I acquiesced and we wound up in Petco on Valentine’s Day, staring at the various tanks, picking out a fish.

With my vast fish owning experience, I was certain that this would be a great lesson for the little ones. In my mind, they would learn that owning and caring for a pet is a great responsibility and that no matter how much the fish is loved, at some time or another, they all must return to the big sea in the sky. I was not the only one entering our new adventure with a pessimistic eye. My husband bet me $10 that the little guy wouldn’t last a week.

After perusing all the tanks and studying the various kinds of fish, we found our pet. He was red with big fins and my son thought he looked like a super hero. In all honesty, I couldn’t really distinguish him from the other male betas, but the kids were convinced, so we brought him home. We named him Flounder and he became a silent part of our family. (His silence is his greatest strength!)

Since he is a family fish, we all help feed him and we take turns cleaning his bowl. This goes about as well as one would expect: Everyone likes to feed him and no one wants to clean his bowl.

In February we celebrated Flounder’s one year anniversary with us. The poor guy has been through many things this year. He made the move with our family to Boone, cradled on my lap in a gladware container. He has stayed with friends while we took vacations during the summer and at Christmas time. While almost everything has changed for our family: new schools, new surroundings, new friends, it has been a comfort to look in his bowl and see him consistently swimming around.

Now that he might be, well, floundering, I don’t know how I will explain this. I think I was beginning to think that he WAS a super hero. Or a super fish—Whatever– But maybe this will be a better lesson than what I intended, because now we will all experience a sensation of loss. Losing something when you first get it is disappointing; losing something that you love is heart breaking. And there are important lessons for all of us, adults and children alike, when a heart is broken.

Flounder has been a good fish and I hope he enjoys life in that sea somewhere in the sky. I will miss him. He has taught me so much..


  1. I love this post Kendra! It is a tough lesson for the kids. Our dog died two years ago, and it was difficult to explain it to them.

    PS, I think it’s funny that the first related post that the website found is a fish recipe!

  2. Hey, I once had a goldfish named Mulrooney (Named at the time for the Prime Minister of Canada, from whence he came,) that lived for 10 years! He even jumped out of the bowl twice and I found him on the floor covered in dog hair. (Let’s not contemplate what my housekeeping skills might be) Don’t dispair. Get a small aquarium with bubbles and don’t forget to use amquel in the water. (It removes the amonia) It may be a long shot, but when Mulrooney committed Hari Kari the second time, I promised him I would get a bowl with bubbles and he lived another 4 years! And BTW a fish can go many days without food and thrive. Could he be getting overfed? Long Live Flounder.

  3. Best of luck, Kendra. We also lost a one year old betta not too awful long ago. There were tears and sobs (and a wet shirt for Daddy, who drew the short straw on breaking the news), but I think it was a pretty good lesson about loss that was easily controlled – “in a fishbowl”, if you will. It’s difficult to teach the little ones about huge concepts like loss, grief, and death, but I found that the dearly departed “Rainbowy Goldy” offered an easily understandable venture into that lifelong lesson. It’s somehow easier to grieve over something you could never hug to begin with.

    That being said, I surely hope your fish just has the winter blues!! We have one betta who has been laying on the bottom of his bowl for at least 3/4 of every day for the past 8 months… He may just be kind of lazy! 🙂