It was Children's Day in China yesterday. I'm always suspicious of these types of 'festivals'. It usually means Little A will come home from school with some kind of unusual gift. I was not wrong. Yesterday, when I picked him up, I was presented with a bag of decorative face clothes and two goldfish. I don't think the two were connected. I preferred it when they gave us insect repellant.
The fish were housed in a small, lidless jar - pretty cramped and precarious living conditions, even by goldfish standards, which I imagine is a low bar anyway. The problem of how to get them home seemed to be the first of many fish-related hurdles I was going to have to face that day. Unless, of course, I fell at the first hurdle after which there would be no further hurdles…apart from the explain-to-the-almost-3-year-old-about-death-hurdle. Yikes.
Given that I was in charge of carrying Snugglepunk on my back and pushing Little A in the pram...the welfare of the fish was left in the shaky and whimsical hands of a fickle pre-schooler with a penchant for pouring water out of things. It was a slow journey home, punctuated by cries of "I wanna kiss the fish" and "Ooops".
The pavements of Shanghai are no place for goldfish. There are whizzing motorcycles, loose paving stones and unexpected slanty parts - not to mention a large wide-eyed child threatening to drink your environment. At one point, Little A buckling under the tedium of responsibility, quietly reached his arm out over the side of the pram, lowering the jar towards the pavement where he presumably planned to abandon it without fanfare or ado somewhere between the Bank of China and the KFC. Thankfully, I was alerted to his plan by the fact that he had not threatened to pet the fish in several seconds and was able to whisk the jar out of his hand just before contact with the ground was made.
Little A, unmoved by my daring rescue, looked up lazily and said "Mama, you hold fish" as he spent the rest of the journey home lounging in the pram with his hands behind his head outlining the various things he expected me to procure for him that afternoon..."Ice-cream, two cakes, some Peppa Pig, a bicycle, three hugs and wine".
I spent the rest of the journey pretending I was a contestant in The Crystal Maze - holding open-water fish in one hand, pushing a pram with the other while a 10kg creature with teeth alternates bouncing, squealing and biting on my back and the 18 kg creature in the pram uses his feet against the wheels to cause the pram to veer sharply in one direction and then the other. The air was humid. My hair was in my eyes and I was running low on affection for both child and fish.
On arrival at home, Snugglepunk scampered off under a table in search of dropped crumbs of Play-Doh to lick off the floor. Little A headed off into the kitchen in search of wine. I should perhaps note at this stage that we have convinced Little A that prune juice is wine and he has become quite the connoisseur with the added advantage of regular bowel movements. I'm sure that this is atrocious parenting but I'm not sorry....although I do wish he would stop demanding wine from people in restaurants and shops. I think they just assume we’re French.
Anyway, I found myself standing alone in the living room holding a jar of goldfish and with no notion what I was supposed to do with them or how I was supposed to feed them. I filled a tupperware container (the one I usually use for Corn Flakes, but will probably no longer use for Corn Flakes) with water and slotted the fish and their temporary hostel into the bookshelf. I'd like to think it's out of Little A's reach but that would underestimate his ability to pile stools on top of each other and climb on top of them. I have yet to find anywhere in the apartment that is actually out of his reach.
I spent the next hour frantically trying to buy fish food and a fish bowl online while dinner went uncooked and children went untended to. By the time the bowl and food get here, the fish - who Little A has named "Orange" and "Other Orange" - will probably be dead and I will have an unwanted fish bowl on my hands. Maybe I can use it to store Corn Flakes?
On waking this morning, I went to check on Orange and Other Orange. They're still alive, surprisingly. Little A spent five minutes tapping on the side of their tupperware and shouting "Hello fishies" at them before he left for school so I doubt they're long for this world.