When our Betta fish – Nemo – died, I wasn’t really sure how to explain it to my then, 2 year old twins. While we were out, he had jumped from his bowl and plunged to his death. I was shocked and sad — but most of all I was afraid the boys would be inconsolable. They really loved that fish.
What to tell your children when a pet dies
They saw my shock (yes — I know it was a fish, but I love all my pets) and started to ask what happened to Nemo. The first thing I blurted out was, “Nemo must have gone home to visit his Mommy and Daddy.” At this point my husband looked at me and said something like, “Just tell them what happened.” I don’t like lying to my kids — but I felt like telling them the truth would steal some of their innocence. I knew he was right, so I had to retract my story, and tell them that Nemo had indeed died.
Of course, they didn’t know exactly what this meant so I said, “Nemo went to Heaven.” One of their grandfathers past away shortly after their 1st birthday. We have always talked about their Papa being in Heaven with Jesus, so I knew they would sort of understand what I meant by that.
I remembered seeing a Cosby Show episode where Rudy’s goldfish died. The family gathered around the toilet, said some nice words and flushed it. That seemed like it might be a good idea. We took our sweet Nemo into the bathroom, said some nice words, told him good-bye and flushed him down the toilet. Before the lid even shut A. turned to me and said, “Can we get another Nemo?” That made me wonder why I had even bothered with my story in the first place. Lesson learned.
We did get another Betta, his name was James. Yes — I said was. He lived about a year and then passed away. I told the boys straight up what happened; he died, he’s in Heaven with Nemo and all of that. I flushed him on my own, since it seems as though I’m the only one in the family who cares when our fish die. In case you are wondering – we did get a new Betta – his name is Firefish Sam.
All poop goes to heaven
So anyway — last summer I began potty training the boys. They were doing pretty well and N. was really getting the hang of pooping in the potty. One day – as I was emptying out his potty chair into the toilet – he turns to me and in all seriousness says “My poop go to Heaven with Nemo and James and Papa?”
Uh Oh! What had I done? Since that time, I have had to explain over and over that the toilet is not the gateway into Heaven. However, I’m not sure if they completely believe me.
It was funny. It totally caught me off guard. It made me realize just how important it is to think about what I am saying, before I attempt to explain things to the boys.
Oh – and when Firefish Sam dies – he’ll be buried; not flushed.
How have you explained death to your children?