Tragic Follow-Up to a Five-Year-Old’s Birthday

You know how everything old is new again? How marketers realized that all the kids of the 80s are having their own kids and will pay good money for things that make them go Aw man, I used to have one of those!!

Well, I didn’t, as it happens, have any of these particular items, although I wished I did. (And I think they’re from much earlier than the 80s, given the age of some of the Archie comics we had at home that contained this very ad.)

Image via

AB was given a Sea Monkey aquarium, along with a little sachet of eggs, some water purifier, and some powdery sea monkey food, for her birthday. It was just like this one, except blue. (Notice that the sea monkey family portrait has not changed.)


Both kids were pretty excited. We followed all the instructions to the letter, and sure enough, a few days after we’d put the eggs in, there were super-tiny creatures propelling themselves around the aquarium! So cute! They did not have head-crown-thingies that we could discern, and they were nowhere near as nonchalant as the ones in the ad, but still… Cool stuff!!

The big problem was that the instructions don’t go past the first feeding. You’re supposed to wait five days after you put the eggs in there before you feed them, and the instructions make it clear that if you overfeed them THEY WILL SUFFOCATE. But does that mean you feed them every five days subsequently? Or does the schedule change? I turned to the internet for advice, and determined that we should wait at least a few days between feedings. We did our best.

I don’t know what went wrong. Within a week or so, there were only a couple of moving sea monkeys we could find… and then, only one. And then… a still, still tank. There were pathetic moments like when the kids stirred them (like you’re supposed to) and said, “Look, they’re moving around!” or when there was absolutely no movement and she figured, “Let’s just feed them anyway in case they’re only sleeping.”

We were sad that they were dead. Eventually, AB reached the Acceptance stage. This is what she wrote, in tribute.

[That’s pronounced “Sea Monkey-zuh” like when you REALLY want someone to know that it’s plural.]

It was right around Halloween, hence the gravestone savvy. (Actually, there was a rough draft of this picture that had “RCR” on the gravestone – she couldn’t remember what it was supposed to say, and that was her best guess.)

This reads (in the intended order): “To Sea Monkeys. I love you. You died and I did a surprise.”

This picture itself is the “spris”. Surely the sea monkeys are somewhere in the heavenly ether, smiling at their happy likeness.

On a lighter note, you can see that AB has finally reached that stage where she wants to write stuff and isn’t afraid to spell words any which way. Which is AWESOME; I adore this stage. It’s like seeing them learn to talk all over again.


P.S.: I meant to add this to the birthday post, but it segues nicely from sea monkeys. Ever since last spring, AB has been obsessed with the monkey bars. We are lucky at the school because they have lots of bars to climb on at different heights – the kind of structures that have been removed from most playgrounds for some reason. AB does all kinds of tricks on a set of parallel bars and I can just see her little muscles working hard.

And when she crosses the ladder-style monkey bars, which she finally learned to do near the end of JK, her determination is palpable. Her eyes get all steely with focus. And her hands, which are still sweet li’l five-year-old hands with dimply knuckles, have gotten all callused on the palms, as if she were moonlighting as a construction worker. It’s pretty awesome altogether.



4 thoughts on “Tragic Follow-Up to a Five-Year-Old’s Birthday

  1. Beverly Shepard says:

    Oh, my. Life. And death, too. I remember events that relate to both these tales, from my kids’ childhoods. When Ben was about 2, we got some tadpoles from one of the tiny ponds up behind the playground in the Heights, and I set them up in a shallow bowl with water and some rocks and we fed them goldfish food, and watched them grow. But one day I came into the dining room area, where the bowl was set on the table, and he was up on a chair with one finger in the water. I hastened over to see what he was doing, and he looked up at me with his big innocent eyes and said in his little innocent voice, “Look him go!” He was chasing the last remaining live tadpole around with his finger to see how fast he could swim. All the other tads had already been chased to death — and this in just the few minutes I had let him out of my sight. That last tadpole died, too. Benny was very sad. We talked about little creatures and their needs and fragility. Probably a good lesson but a hard one. And then there was the time I was at Beth’s school and for some reason standing outside at recess with the principal, Dave Johnman, and we were watching the kids have a great time on the playground equipment, especially the monkey bars. Dave said, “They’re going to take those out, you know. They’re considered too dangerous for kids.” We were both disgusted! Kids have played on monkey bars for decades or centuries! With probably fewer serious injuries than playing on the ground, proportionally. We agreed that no matter what kind of equipment or lack of it is on offer, kids will find the most dangerous possible thing to do with or on it, so it’s impossible to make everything safe. And besides, getting hurt from time to time is part of life, also a hard but good lesson.

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      That tadpole story has always made me want to weep. So innocent and so deadly at the same time.

      I think the attitude toward playground equipment is gradually shifting… Have you seen the updated Exhibition Park yet?

  2. Beverly Shepard says:

    Of course, if the tadpoles had been left in the pond, most of them would have been eaten before making it to frogdom. I put them back into the pond and they probably met the same fate (though insensately) they would have. The lessons remain, however.

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      That is a good point… it helps a little bit. But it’s more the terror of the little pollywogs that makes me sad.

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