Sunday morning started with a plea for a pet. The kids had been browsing the toy ads from the newspaper, which is how I placate them while I quickly down three cups of coffee, and saw some god-awful robotic animal that they insisted they NEED. “MOM WE NEED THIS ROBOTIC HAMSTER. WE NEEEEEEED IT.” Somehow this segued into Taylor begging for a dog. “But we have a dog, son” was my rebuttal. “Our dog does cool tricks. Our dog never pees on the floor, which is more than I can say for you, CHILDREN. No other dog is going to be as good as the dog we have now, so why set ourselves up for disappointment?”
Two hours later I had negotiated us down to a fish. I told the kids if they can keep a fish alive for four years, we’ll get another dog. Obviously I’m going to be the one taking care of the fish, and I can’t keep a fish alive for four years. OH MY DIABOLICAL SCHEMES. I chuckled to myself maniacally. It’s the little things, people.
This is how parenting is, most of the time; a bidding war of sorts. You, the parent, start at the very bottom, knowing that your children are going to try their damndest to get to their goal of a puppy. They have no shame. They will employ every tactic, from puppy-dog eyes to the famous “I WILL KEEP MY ROOM CLEAN EVERY DAY” promises. Yeah right, buddy. This aint Mommy’s first rodeo.
I bid low; in the end we walked out of the pet store with two fish. I should’ve started at “sea monkeys”.
Aside: When I was four, my brothers and I pulled this same move on my dad. Oh, we begged and pleaded and cajoled for months on end, lobbying for a puppy. “Nope. Just another mouth to feed,” says Dad coolly. One day my dad came back to us with a compromise—he showed us an ad in the back of some magazine for sea monkeys. It looked super cool. In 1987 that was seriously some space-age shit. We agreed to table the dog discussion for a year if we could get some sea monkeys. “Alright, that’s a deal. I’ll send away for the sea monkeys,” Dad says with a decisive nod.
My brothers and I spent two weeks checking the mail for our sea monkeys. And then, FINALLY, they arrived. It was just a tiny manila envelope filled with… crumbs? It looked like crumbs, but how were we to know? Sea monkeys are from the future, we told ourselves. Maybe in the future everything is dehydrated until you need it to be alive. We readied the tank and dumped our sea crumbs into the water, while my dad explained that eventually they grow to look like small furry shrimp. “FUCKING RADICAL! BITCHIN’ AND GNARLY!” my toe-headed brothers and I exclaimed. No really, I bet we did say that. I can’t remember, exactly, but probably we did.
We spent the next few weeks peering into the tank, comparing their size today to their size yesterday. We used a magnifying glass to try and spot developing fur.
After about a month, I had concerns. The sea monkey crumbs were not growing! I went to my dad, worry written all over my face. How do I break this to him? “Daddy, I think our sea monkeys are suffering from failure to frive.” I expected tears. Poor us, with our dead sea monkey crumbs. Will we ever recover, as a family? WILL WE EVER BE ABLE TO LOVE AGAIN?
We got through it. And when I was 21, my dad confessed over Thanksgiving pie that the sea monkeys were dust particles he had scooped into an envelope and mailed to himself.
Dad started really low—dust; and we worked him up to sea monkeys. He obviously won that bidding war.
So we arrive home after a harrowing journey in which I’m driving (a stick shift) and holding two containers of fish so they don’t get spilled and/or shaken to death, and I get the fishes all set up in their new water mansion and I’m asking Taylor and Maya what they want to name their fish.
Me: “Honey, that’s your name. Don’t you want to be the only Maya in the house? What other name do you want to name your fish?”
Me: “Bobo (that’s his nickname, which invokes deathglares because he’s “a man now”), what are you gonna name your fish?”
Maya: “My fishee is name MOM!”
Okay then. Welcome to the family, Plasmagun and Mom. May you live longer than sea crumbs.