Shark Boy and Lava Girl

We’ve been having some separation anxiety problems with our son lately, and he refuses to go to school as a result. If I can manage to get him into the school (which isn’t easy since my midwife says I’m not allowed to lift him up, and he locks the door and holds the door handle so I can’t even get at him in the car), he cries and screams for up to 45 minutes when I leave. It’s gotten so out of hand that I’ve been pulling out all kinds of bribes to try and get him to go, and one day I made the mistake of offering a pet if he would go to school for 2 weeks without crying.

He said he wanted a frog, but after a bit of research I found out several big drawbacks to owning a frog:
1. Frogs can live for up to 15 years.
2. Frogs eat live bugs, which have to be purchased weekly and put in their cage.
3. It’s hard to find people to “frog sit” when you’re out of town because of #2.

I quickly talked him out of a frog and into a fish, and the chart was made. S is a big fan of charts and reward-based reinforcement, and quickly jumped on the fish bandwagon as well. So we made her a chart too, even though she’s a practically perfect child who really doesn’t have much to improve on. Because her chart was so easy for her to do, she finished a week before C. I had taken her to the Urologist on Friday and we decided on the way home to pick up the fish. She settled on two gold fish, which set me back 1.00 but I had to buy the bowl, the food, the water conditioner, the net... and all of that was another 15 bucks. She was SO happy on the way home; she kept saying stuff like, “I can’t believe I have pets! My very own pets!” She named them Shark Boy and Lava Girl, because the kid at the pet shop told us one was a boy and one was a girl, and told us how to tell the difference. I wish he had told us how to keep the damn things alive.

The next morning, E (our next door neighbor who is 6) came over to see the fish. It was right around that same time that we realized Lava Girl was hovering at the bottom of the bowl, and hadn’t moved all morning. S was devastated, despite the talk I had given her in the car the day before about fish mortality. Of course we both assumed the fish would live longer than 12 hours. She cried for 2 hours, despite my generous donation of a pretty box to serve as a coffin and a lovely funeral service performed by Travis. Finally I told her I would take her back to the pet store to get more fish, and this was the only thing that curbed the tears.

C, S and I piled into the car and drove back to Petland. This time I opted to spring for the more expensive gold fish, assuming they would be heartier and hopefully live longer. The new fish were white and gold, and we got two of them. Again, S was thrilled on the drive home. ONE HOUR LATER, we lost one of the new fish. Poor S has been on an emotional roller coaster ever since. We took the kids out to dinner and ice skating with friends on Saturday night, and although she enjoyed herself immensely, she kept coming over and saying to me, “Mom, I’m worried about the fish.” If we’re at home, she checks on them every 10 minutes, and when she’s been gone it’s the first thing she does when we return. The poor kid is as anxious as a new mother.

So now C has finished his chart. All week he’s been saying that on Friday we’re going to get his fish... he’s picked out two black goldfish that are really neat looking. I’m desperately trying to talk him into something else... a new Leapster game? A tennis racket? A Batmobile? Anything that can’t die. I can’t take it anymore. Suddenly the frog that lives for 15 years isn’t sounding like such a bad idea!

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