This isn’t our first rodeo, but when a pet dies it’s always difficult for children. But life happens, goldfish don’t live forever, and there’s always an opportunity to do the right thing.
This morning started with a curveball when our 5-year-old came out of her room in tears because the “little goldfish is laying on the rocks in the bowl.”
I went with her and, sure enough, there was little fish on the rocks. I broke the news, we talked it out, she cried, and we had plenty of snuggles. Then, we got a bit more practical. I gave her the options for what we needed to do next and she made a decision.
Goodness, it’s hard when a pet dies.
Believe me, I wanted to whisk it away, dry her tears, and make everything better. I wanted to fix it for her and make it okay again, but how will she ever learn to deal with heartache and disappointments in life if we don’t let her try? So we handled it together.
We removed the dead fish and cleaned the bowl for the surviving fish. When we were done she said, “I know I handled that well, but I’m still pretty sad about it.”
So I let her in on something that is true today and will be for the rest of her life.
“We do what we have to do, but we still get to feel how we feel.”
Practicalities don’t cancel out emotions. They just don’t. We’re doing ourselves a disservice if we think that those two things must exist independently of each other. They can live together and when we teach our kids that it’s possible to feel and still deal with life’s difficult details, we’re equipping them for bigger things ahead.