Thomas’s First Pet

I originally wrote this story back in 2008 when Thomas was 3 years old. I came across it in my archives and decided it was time to share this little nugget of a story with you all. I hope it makes you smile.


My son, Thomas, is like any three-year old. He’s creative, adventurous and funny.  He can come up with some of the most interesting and charming ideas. Usually these ideas stem from something he saw on TV or heard from a preschool buddy. He gets this look on his face, eyes staring off in the distance, eyebrows drawn together and lips slightly parted. Whenever I see the look, I know that he is pondering the grand possibilities of a new idea.

Yesterday, when I picked him up from preschool, Thomas had that look on his face.  I knew something was up as soon as he greeted me at the door.

“Mommy let’s go to the pet store!” Good Grief!

As I rolled my eyes toward his teacher, she flashed a sheepish little grin and said, “Sorry, we were playing pretend pet store this morning, and he hasn’t stopped talking about it all day!”

Now, don’t get me wrong, Mark and I love animals. We both have had plenty of pets over the years, I grew up on a farm, for god’s sake. It’s just that we have been without a pet for about 4 years now and it’s been, quite frankly, nice. We have not had to deal with the extra expenses of being pet owners and let’s be honest, it’s one less creature to clean up after!

I took a deep breath and told Thomas that we could visit the pet store to look around but I was not promising anything. We spent the five-minute car ride, discussing the responsibilities of being a good pet owner (what I really mean is that I was trying to convince him that it was a BAD idea). Anyway, when we arrived, he ran through the front door of the store and right up to the fish tanks. I think I had a fish once when I was child because I suddenly remembered the GOD AWFUL smell of the fish food (yuck) and cleaning out the algae that grows in the tank. There was a large variety of fish and Thomas busied himself by running from tank to tank, surveying his options. The smell of the fish tanks was starting to make me nauseous, and the thought of having a pet fish was not sounding very appealing. With some gentle nudging, I was able to convince him to take a look at the other animals so that he could weigh his options. Whew, dodged that bullet!

He chose to survey the cats. Have I ever mentioned that I do not like cats? First of all, I’m allergic to the nasty feline critters. If I get within 10 feet of a cat, my throat starts to feel itchy, my nose starts to run and my eyes feel like sandpaper. Second of all, Mark and I consider ourselves dog people so when Thomas decided to leave the cat area, I said a quiet little prayer of gratitude and maybe even did a little happy dance in the pet store aisle.

“Mommy, I think I want a Salamander or a Skink.”

How the heck does he know what those are, he’s only 3!!  He wandered over to the reptile section and proceeded to tell me how cute all the lizards and snakes were.  Reptiles, although not on my most hated pet list, are just not practical for a three-year old. Without much effort, I was able to convince him to keep on looking.

He turned on his heels and stopped dead in his tracks. In front of him were dozens of furry mice and fuzzy gerbils.

“Mommy, I want a pet mouse.”

I suddenly remembered my intense aversion to rodents of any kind. They are small, have sharp teeth, don’t come when you call them and are just…. gross.  I started to have visions of Thomas’s pet mouse getting loose in my house. We would look for the little guy for two days with no luck. And on the third day, I would crawl into my warm cozy bed after a long day at work and fall asleep quickly, only to be woken an hour later when that stupid mouse, finds his way under the covers and up my pajama bottoms. Heck no! No mice in my house! All of a sudden, the idea of stinky fish food did not sound so bad after all. We quickly made our way back to the fish tanks.

Okay, I’m a sucker.  I couldn’t say no to him. He was so excited that I agreed to a Male Blue Betta Fish and, of course, all of the stuff that goes with it. We bought a small fish tank, brightly colored pebbles, fake seaweed, special fish water, and finally an itty bitty tiny little fish castle. Thirty minutes later and $40 lighter, we got in line to purchase our new pet.

Suddenly, Thomas spotted a fish tank that is actually shaped like R2D2 from Star Wars! He went nuts and started jumping up and down clapping his hands, begging for the fish tank, which is a whopping $100!

“No way” I told him. “We can’t get the fish if we buy that fish tank and if we don’t have a fish we don’t need to get the fish tank.” This irrational rationalization seemed to make sense to him so he agreed to the original plan, WHEW!

By this point, we were in line behind two women, slightly older than I, who were clearly entertained by our discussion, smiling as they listened to Thomas and I talk about how we would care for the new fish. They looked at me with that sympathetic yet cynical smirk of older more experienced moms who had once had this SAME conversation with their children. I smiled back politely and continued on with my conversation with Thomas.

Thomas was still quietly pondering his decision to not get the R2D2 fish tank, staring at it longingly while we waited for our turn at the cash register.

I looked down at him and noticed that he had that look on his face.

“What’s up buddy?” I asked.

“Maybe, I’ll name him Darth Vader the Betta Fish.”  he said, smiling from ear to ear. Brilliant right? If he can’t get the R2D2 fish tank, he could at least pay homage to Star Wars.

“That sounds great.” I said.

He paused for a couple of seconds and then the look returned.

“Hey, Vader sounds like the word Betta.” He said, wheels turning, eyes getting wider……..”I know, let’s call him Darth Betta.”

The two ladies in front of me started cracking up and Thomas realized that his clever little idea, made the grown ups around him laugh. This is all the encouragement he needed to start quoting lines from Star Wars like, “Luke, I am your father.” “Watch out Chewie, it’s a dead animal!”  Needless to say, he was the source of entertainment for everyone standing in line at the cash register and he walked out of the pet store, proudly carrying Darth Betta to his new home.

Blue Betta Fish



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