The Tacky Plastic Fish Ring

Ben has been spending long hours working on his senior thesis and I was burnt out on packing, so I decided to scratch off #6 on my Fantasy To-Do List - take Juliette to the Aquarium of the Pacific. I picked Juliette up from school and headed to Long Beach, reading in the car until she woke up from her nap. We toodled around at her pace, squealing about the sharks, pointing out the Nemos ("There's a Nemo, mama! Two Nemos!"), getting mesmerized by the sea turtle.

Before we left, we stopped in the gift shop. I almost skipped it; after seeing a leafy sea dragon in person, all that junky souvenir stuff is even less compelling. But we moseyed through, looking at the various and sundry pens, stuffed fish, and plastic sting rays that help pay the bills. Juliette didn't ask for anything until we got to a tiny model of a sea turtle, and then she asked so nicely (and it was so cheap), I said yes.

We went over to pay for it, but by the cash register Juliette encountered a tacky pink plastic fish ring - sort of a miniature snow globe except with little sea creatures inside. It was just the sort of thing I roll my eyes at. All that talk about conservation and not using plastic bags, and then all this tacky junk destined for landmines. Or, ironically, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. (The turtle, on the other hand, wasn't as tacky. It had a sort of educational aura about it, you know?) But I let Juliette decide between the turtle and the ring, and you know she picked the ring.

Not moments later on our way back to the car, we were standing by the harbor looking at the boats. The ring fell off of Juliette's finger and promptly fell into the ocean. My first thought was something to the effect of, "I knew that piece of junk was going to end up polluting the ocean!" And my second thought was, "No way am I buying a second ring." I could tell immediately how disappointed Juliette was. She didn't have a fit, but she was sad. I had a flash of wanting to make it better. It was in my power to spend $3 to replace the thing. Instead, we sat on the bench for a couple minutes talking about how much "it stinks" that the ring fell into the water.

Ultimately, the reason I didn't replace it isn't because it was tacky in the first place. I decided in that moment that I can't always be the kind of mama to immediately fix it. I'm sure there will be times when I will. But there will also be times when I need to be the mama who commiserates with a disappointed kid. After all, there are disappointments I can't fix even if I wanted to, and it's probably good to have some practice on tacky plastic fish rings first.

Juliette talked about her ring, forlornly, for a few more minutes. But soon enough she played with her spinning top and laughed when I asked her if there were any jellyfish or sea turtles in her bag of fish crackers.

I think I made the right decision. But the alternate decision might not have been wrong.

At any rate, it was a really good afternoon.

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