Isla wants a pet for Christmas, a dog preferably but she'll settle for a hamster, Husband wants to get her a fish. His reasons, he says are well thought out and rational (and absolutely nothing to do with a fear of rodent like creatures). Firstly we have no room for a dog (he's right), secondly fish make ideal first pets; they're quiet (ever heard of a fish that likes rock and roll? he asked cryptically), they're clean (after mummy has cleaned them out), don't need walking, don't leave fur everywhere, stay where you put them and they die quite quickly.
He said this last bit with a knowing nod, you see I've thought of it all wink wink. Great, well done we'll give her a present that will die quite soon. It's like playing a trick on your children, it's only funny for you because you understand it, to them its plain confusing (never again the 'monster is under our bed not yours' trick; Isla still won't enter our bedroom and instead hovers nervously at the door. On the plus side it does keep her from waking us at six, in fact Husband has been known to growl just a little at the sound of footsteps on the landing).
Anyway, the dying quickly bit is the sticking point for me. I can see why it's a good thing, Isla gets her pet which conveniently passes away just as the novelty wears off. It also ties up the life lesson of 'people and animals die' quite well. Perfect. He does have a point. It's just that he's not at home with the children and the likelihood is that it'll be me that has to deal with the event. I'll have to cope with all the tears and explanations as to where fishy has gone. I may even have to make up some story about a heaven for fish but I'll try my best not to. It does have it's appeal though I could really go to town on the fish princesses, seaweed sweets and bedtime whenever any fishy wanted it. Next it would be up to mummy to arrange the burial (there will be no quick exits down the toilet for Isla's fish trust me) and to fashion some sort of headstone out of pasta. And the worst thing is I'll have to do all this like I care and touch a dead fish tenderly and with regret. I'm going to use an onion to produce the tears.
So we're trying to find alternatives and I'm telling you, there aren't many. Tortoises are illegal (and live an awfully long time, that 'life lesson' may begin in Isla's eighties), cats sit on babies heads and ponies are ridiculously expensive - you need a whole other house for a pony Isla, reliable as ever, informed us. We could consider reptiles, but I like to sleep as soundly as Isla will let me and not in fear of becoming a tasty snake snack. So that leaves us insect type things. In fact a stick insect could work, we could buy her a stick, or get it free from the garden and tell her all about how stick insects look just like sticks and keep very very still all the time so they can catch flies. That could really work but it brings me back to not playing tricks on three year olds. She's bound to twig (sorry) it sooner or later; if the insect hasn't moved by her eighteenth birthday she's sure to think some thing's not quite right. We could damage her for life.
So really that leaves a fish; it's the only one that won't live forever, sit on the baby's head, spread fur everywhere, eat me in the night, need a home all of its own or resemble a stick and tempt me to cheat. A fish it is, excellent. Now I just need to figure out how Santa might have got it down the chimney and we're good to go.