I take pains to be unfailingly, unflinchingly honest with my daughter (within the bounds of age-appropriateness, of course). She believes what I tell her; then again, being 5 years old, she believes almost anything anyone tells her.
For instance, one of Willow’s friends recently told her that she once caught a mermaid. Willow not only believed it, she wanted a mermaid for her very own.
And so, when she found a chestnut at preschool she brought it home, put it in the biggest bowl we have in the house, and filled it with water. She told her dad and me that it was a mermaid egg, and that it may take some time to hatch. Like, two or three years.
“I don’t think so, honey” I said. I tried to explain that mermaids aren’t real. They are make-believe. Willow wouldn’t hear of it; she continued to insist that her “egg” would one day “hatch.”
That’s when my husband, chuckling, remarked that it would be fun to sneak a goldfish into the bowl when she wasn’t looking.
Thus began the biggest whopper of a story we’ve ever concocted for our daughter.
Yes, I did sneak off to the pet store while Willow was at preschool; found a beautiful blue betta (they are supposed to be hardy); came home and cleaned out the water and put in the fish. Then I left the house, so that when she came home with her dad later on, she could discover that her mermaid egg had hatched.
And I’m happy to report that she went wild when she saw the “mermaid fish.” It really blew her mind that the story she created came true. We rushed out after dinner that night to get a glass tank and betta fish food, and Willow had a lot of fun setting up the fish’s new home. This fish is also her first real pet, her sole responsibility, and she is taking very good care of it. She delights in telling everyone about how her mermaid fish hatched, and we back her up when incredulous adults express skepticism.
I realize that some folks might frown on our encouragement of childhood fantasy and our total disregard for the ethical problems of feeding an impressional young child a total whopper of a lie. These people probably don’t get visits from the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.
She named it “Flower.” Welcome home, flower the fish.