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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

One more use for the ubiquitous battery...

teaching facts of life to toddlers parenting Plecostomus Of all the zillions of uses that the regular household batteries are put to, all well-designed and intended to power various gadgets and such, we didn't think it would come in handy to teach a valuable fact of life to Ana - viz., death.

A few days ago, Pugly II, our resident Plecostomus decided to call it quits. D found the poor creature floating belly up one night and promptly fished it out and flushed it. The little school of goldfish in our aquarium didn't seem to miss him much.

Now, Pugly I, the predecessor, lived a full algae-sucking life in our little aquarium till a ripe old age (whatever that is for his species) and quietly left us. Ana was too young to notice (or count) at that time, so, his demise went unnoticed by her.

However, with Pugly II, she seemed to have formed a strange bond: on and off, she would stop to notice where he is hiding in the tank. Pugly II liked to attach himself to the back of this black tube/filter in the tank and sort of blend in and remain there until it was dark enough for him to comfortably move around and suck on the algae. And, Ana liked to count and verify that all our fish are alive and accounted for in the tank.

I had hoped that before she noticed Pugly II's absence, we could replace him with a Pugly III and all would be well, except maybe some irksome questions about why he shrunk a bit overnight...

No such luck. Next morning, Ana noticed that Pugly II was missing and started questioning persistently, refusing to be distracted by anything I could come up with. So, I conveniently oiled out of the Big Lesson About Death by declaring casually, "Appa took it away, Ana... I don't know...".

She repeated it after me perhaps to convince herself that this is an acceptable answer for now, "Appa took it away, Amma... yeah."

When D came home later that day, she ran to him squealing as usual, "Appa is here, Amma... Appa is here!" and parked her cute self on his lap regally.

"Where's the fish, Appa? Where's the black fish?", she promptly questioned.

"He died, Ana" replied D in his blunt, matter-of-fact tone.

"No Appa, black fish? Where did the black fish go?" she persisted.

"Oh, umm... I told her you took it away..." I interjected helpfully, catching a raised brow shot in my direction.

"Oh. I had to throw him away, Ana, in the trash. He was dead", explained D sincerely, while rolling his eyes discreetly at me for the applesauce I had fed her.

"Uh-Oh. Appa threw it away. In trash. Why did you throw the fish away, Appa?", she grilled doggedly, "dead" not being a part of her vocabulary till now.

"Umm... let's see... You know how your guitar stopped making music? and we saw that the the guitar's batteries were not working anymore? Well, the fish's battery was not working anymore. His battery stopped working, so he died." ventured D, by way of a profound explanation.

"Fish's battery was not working. Fish died" she repeated, turning it over in her head, just a tad unconvinced.

And before she could ask why we didn't try inserting new batteries like we did with her guitar, D went over to put on some cheerful music, her current favorite, and let her process the information in due time... and, thereby allowing himself a chance to think of a suitable response for that impending question.

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At 3:54 AM, Blogger Gauri said...

Hmmm ... as a stopgap, that was good reasoning on D's part. in fact, I've used this reasoning myself in trying to explain to my kids when one of the fishes used to "disappear" from the aquarium.

They do process the information and come back with more questions, though - so better be prepared with a more solid reasoning.

At 9:40 AM, Blogger Sheela said...

hi gauri... yeah... D is very casual about it and is very upfront with Ana... I am the one who shies away from any deep explanations - all in good time... she will learn as she grows older... and while it is nice to be always accurate and try to tell them the "truth" such as it may be, i am also of the belief that a parent can sense when their child is ready for it and should introduce it without jarring their reality... we'll see... what do i know? i am learning as i go here :)

At 5:25 AM, Blogger the mad momma said...

we told the Brat the fish were dead sometime back. he didnt question it. just said oh... and went about his business leaving the OA and me wondering why he is so hassle free!!!

At 12:59 PM, Blogger Sheela said...

the mad momma: So true, kids don't make a big deal about it and can process "fish died" for sure... it is *me* that has a problem with talking about death in general. "What happens when people die?" is something I know I will be able to address with Ana when I am ready for it.


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