As a father of two handsomely precocious children, I find myself frequently faced with a dilemma all proud fathers grapple with: Whether or not to start the entire process all over again and have another child. My wife and I emerged victorious through the trials of diaper changing and sleepless nights, and the thought of returning to those early days of parenthood seems daunting. Mother Nature is supposed to mind-wipe parents of certain hardships– like an evolutionary Men In Black flashbang– in a miraculous effort to preserve the species. Our memories, however, are fully intact. So, we did what many have done before us, and pondered the possibility of filling the perceived void with a pet. Because if a raising another child seems too harrowing, the thing to do is adopt an animal that essentially remains a child for its entire life, right?
Luckily, not all pets require the same degree of training, attention, or responsibility. Once again, following in the footsteps of so many parents before us, we found a happy compromise. The acquisition of a gorgeous betta fish. With iridescent purple-blue fins and sassy laps around the modest 3-gallon tank, he made himself at home with ease. We handed the duty of naming this majestic new member of the family to our boys, fully expecting something inspired by the superheroes that keep both our children and our culture so entranced. That is not what happened. In a truly surprising twist, inspiration came from somewhere far more delicious, and our fish was named “Macaroni.”
After a short yet frightening bout with fin rot, we decided it was time for Macaroni to have a pet of his own. The young girl at our local PetSmart helped me pick out a lovely yellow snail, which she assured me would provide excellent companionship for our dear Macaroni. He would also help keep the tank clean, which made him all the more appealing to me– the only one who does any real cleaning of the fish tank. Our boys were thrilled to add another creature to the family, and promptly (and cleverly) named him “Cheese.” We bought some real plants to decorate the tank, after learning that the hard-plastic ones had likely contributed to Macaroni’s fin issues, and things seemed to be going swimmingly. That is, until one day, I was alerted to Cheese’s lack of movement. Cheese enjoyed traversing the somewhat spacious tank, yet he had not seemed to move for an unusually long time. The next day, we found his shell empty and floating atop the water. My 4-year-old, with heavy heart, proclaimed: “Well, I guess Macaroni ate Cheese.” Turns out that is relatively normal, and betta fish are like the goats of the fishbowl. Lesson learned.