No Casualties, Please

I’m off to babysit my godchildren tomorrow, for the weekend. I see them often, but this will be the first time in about 7 years that I’ve spent the weekend with them. Me, in charge of them. Frightening.

The last time was, well, traumatic. They were 3, 5, and 8. It didn’t start off as traumatic. We were excited about the weekend. My ex-husband and I, playing house. Babysitting the godchildren. On Saturday we took them to a local fair. We played games; we ate carnival food; we won prizes. Saturday night we went out to dinner and to the movies. Sunday morning we went to the park; we ran; we played; we had fun. All was right with the world. Until.

We came home. Georgie, the youngest, somehow escaped our attention. I’m not sure how. We were all in the same room. The two older ones were watching tv. Georgie decided to climb up, on the barstool, to get something off the counter. Which would have been fine, except he decided to pull himself up by grabbing onto the fishtank. Which proceeded to topple, crash, a deluge of water and fish. It wasn’t an aquarium. Simply a plastic fishtank with about 7 fish in it, won at the fair. Water flooded the hardwood floors. Fish went everywhere. The middle child, seeing the fish on the floor, began screaming in her high pitched voice, “Ahhhhh…. They’re dying! You killed them! The fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiishhhhhhhh……” Georgie simply sat there on the stool, mesmerized by the flowing water and the floundering fish. The oldest tried to capture the flailing fish and put them back in the tank, at the least bruising them, but more likely crushing them in the process. Steve and I, for the most part, stood there dumb-founded, not sure what to do.

At some point in time I wiped the spilled water up with paper towels. All the fish were gathered and placed back into the fish tank. We filled it up with water. Some swam, most floated to the top. “Why are they doing that?” the children asked. “They’ve been through a lot today. They’re resting,” we replied, knowing they were dead, but not sure how to explain it. Their parents would be home in a couple of hours. Let them explain it.

I thought back on this as their mother went over bedtimes, soccer practice times, morning routines, homework regimes, with me tonight. She asked me if I had any questions. “No. No questions. I think we’ll be fine. I’m just glad you don’t have fish anymore.”

She laughed. “Yes, dogs are much harder to kill.”

Oh. Please don’t say that. Please.

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