The news has been broken. The huddle has come together and made a decision.
Panic stations and alarm bells are imminent as you survey the home in its current post-school, pre-dinner state of toys, school clothes and shoes flung everywhere. The dinner is boiling over on the stove, the washing needs to be hung and it’s this moment the kids have announced that they have made a brainstorm as to why they deserve to have a pet in the home.
Firstly, you’re going to be staggered that they came together to make a decision without arguing about it. Secondly, your brain is going to play “please don’t say a puppy” on a highlight reel until they ask you for the puppy. Maybe you have the space for a pet? Maybe you have the income to support the needs of a new family member? Perhaps everyone in the home is allergy-free? Perhaps you just don’t want one more mouth to feed and one more thing to have to add to your endless to-do list.
Then, the hopeful upturned faces of the children, who you are constantly telling to take more responsibility, look at you with hope and joy and say the magic word: please!. So, you’re getting a pet, and you’ve given in on the promise that they will help you to take care of it. They asked for a puppy, but given the short attention span to looking after a stuffed animal, you’ve made the executive, head of the family decision to get a fish.
This you’re okay with; very little maintenance in terms of walks and feeding, no ugly hair shedding on your new furniture that was ruined in 0.3 seconds with sticky fingers and juice. Fish just swim. Around and around, and all you have to do is look here for a great tank for them and then you have to find a great aquarium filter here. It’s a lot less work than a cat or a dog, and you’ve explained that the kids have to demonstrate a base-level consistency around the house before you bring in anything heavier than a goldfish or two. The kids have to know that they will be the ones in charge of looking after their new fish and cleaning the tank, which means that you will likely be the one overseeing and nagging about the care.
The thing to remember before you bring an animal into the home is that animals are a full time job, no matter the breed or size of the breed. They want love and attention and great care – even the fish! Children with a pet in the house are going to learn to be responsible whether they like it or not, and when you start with something as basic as a fish, you can work your way up to that puppy – even if that happens to be right before they leave home and have to take the dog with them.
Having a fish – yes, even a fish – will teach your child to think of something other than themselves. They have to remember to feed their new fish, care for the tank and start thinking about changing out the water. They have to realize very quickly that the fish is depending on them for survival. The fish is even going to teach your children teamwork, working together to name the fish and compromise on who gets to feed it. Even if you don’t like the name of the fish, you have to bite your tongue and be proud of the fact they did it without fighting!
Deciding to allow a fish in the home is going to be a small investment of your cash and their time in comparison to any other kind of pet. If your children thrive at looking after a fish, you’re going to be able to trust your children to look after something a little more high maintenance. Like a hamster. Most people love dogs but Moms who are buried under a list? Moms don’t love dogs because they end up caring for it. By climbing the pet ladder and giving your children the responsibility each time, you can trust that their idea of a pet was a great one.
No one wants to introduce a new pet until they’re ready, so make sure that when your children come with the big eyes and begging pleeeeease, you need to be ready with some logic!