I felt like a pretty awesome dad. Mom didn’t like the fish tank, so I was sad that we weren’t all in agreement, but generally speaking, when we get to bring home something cool and new for you, I feel great. So we came home with a new, third betta and this tiered, triple betta tank with a waterfall filter. Each tank drains into the next before the water is pulled back up top and filtered. I have a feeling you remember this very well, so I don’t think I need to go on…
You had been to the Fall Fest (which you LOVE.) And you won a “free goldfish,” playing some sort of game. Don’t get me started on how stupid this prize was but you won it and we wanted to honor it. While a goldfish needs too much room and was out the question, we settled on a third betta and you and I fell in love with this deathtrap–er, three-tiered tank–that Mom was against from the start. Though for the sake of historical accuracy, it was more the extravagance of it she was against–not so much its precariousness.
A couple weeks later, Saphire, your newest fish, developed some kind of illness, and then each fish downstream of the next died a few days apart (and in between, King Freckles got stuck in a waterfall between two tanks!)
I was worried. You blamed yourself. I blamed myself. And this was a lot of death for an animal-lover like you to bare. You didn’t really want to talk about it (not even during Animals Talking Time, where you often like to process things.) You asked mom to hide all the fish tanks, and you still haven’t said anything about wanting a new fish. Very unlike you.
But then a few days later…during Mr. Pollard’s class, apparently he asked you all to think of things that would calm you down, and you had a suggestion for him. You led (with Ellie’s help) a petition to buy and care for a class pet. You got 22 signatures–everyone in the class. You made your case to Mr. Pollard, carefully preparing for all of his concerns and answering them as they came up. You proposed, surprisingly, a betta fish, and walked him through all reasons it was a good choice. You then came home and made a long list of all the obstacles you would need to overcome in order to accomplish this goal and then proceeded to overcome all of them. You answered hard questions like who will clean the tank and what happens during breaks, not just from us, but from Mr. Pollard.
He had to ask the Principal’s permission. Think about that. Your fourth grade teacher just had a meeting with the Principal to get permission to act on one of your ideas!
You did chores to earn extra money and you and Ellie paid for most of it. We took you both to the pet store and you both agreed to buy a blue and white fish, who looked like a cloudy sky.
The next day you proposed “Nimbus” as his name, and out of all the (many!) other names that were proposed that day, yours won the most votes.
I have seen you do many things that I’m proud of. I’ve been amazed at your talents and inclinations, proud of seeing you learn from us, emulate us, grow more honest and brave…but something about this moment may have shattered all previous pride records for me. While I’m sure you didn’t know exactly why you were doing it, the fact remains that you were deeply mourning, and turned that suffering into something positive that benefited others. And then the way you went about it showed leadership and a surprisingly keen knack for project management–two qualities I didn’t know you possessed until now.
You could have swallowed that suffering and then acted out, lashed out at us, misbehaved at school, but you didn’t. That’s no small emotional feat for a 9-year-old. In fact, it shows a deeply strong character.
I have high expectations for you, Ari. Your mom does too. (And we wonder often if we put too much pressure on you.) But this month, you showed us you can surpass them.