Magic Pish and Psychiatric Expenses

Has anyone ever lied to their kids? I don’t mean big ones, I mean little to medium sized lies that shouldn’t impair their ability to trust another human being down the road. I am not proud of it, but I have blurted things to my children and walked away wondering how many sessions on the couch of a psychiatrist I had just caused. Somewhere out there is a young resident with a name like Fringlehoben preparing himself to tackle the emotional burdens of others. Study hard, young man – I may have done some damage.

I love questions from children. I love it when their inquiring minds pull something so imaginative out of the air. Questions are the lifeblood of knowledge. I like them, I really do. Unfortunately, since I am a big child myself, I don’t always see questions as a teaching opportunity. Sometimes, I use them to funnel my own creativity.

In her early years, my oldest wondered how we got things put away in her room without her knowing it. The correct answer was that she was a very hard sleeper. What did I say? I told her that I had the power to shrink super small. The ruse took a few nights, but I finally convinced her and laughed my normal-sized self to sleep. Until, that is, she showed up in my bed and slept there for a month, utterly terrified to be in her room.

Toys have their own category of deception. Annoying toys need to be lied about to maintain domestic sanity. For instance, did you know that often, batteries cannot be replaced? Unfortunately, the toys that make the loudest noises are disposable. Once the batteries die, they are just worthless hunks of plastic. Those screws? Decorative, I promise.

The lie that scarred our oldest the most was about her fish. Or “pish” as she called it at the time. We are pish killers. Not on purpose, just through neglect and ignorance. We’ve had an aquarium, read books, and really tried. Yet they all still die under our care. The only pish we’ve ever been able to keep alive was a plecostomus named Squeegee and that’s because they live off the junk that kills everything else.


We once got a purple betta pish named Flounder. Our daughter loved that little pish. She watched her pish, fed it and took every care to make sure her pish was happy. She doted on it when it slept sideways at the top of the water and laughed when it sliced its way from the top slowly to rest on the rocks. That amazing little pish died 1000 deaths and somehow still rose every morning to greet my curly-headed love. This was no miracle of resurrection, it was solely a logistical effort since the pet store was on my way home from work.

One fateful day I got the death-call but the store had no purple pish. The closest was a deep red one which I purchased and dumped in the bowl when our little angel was fast asleep. The next morning, she woke us slightly perplexed.

“Daddy, come see!”

“What is it?”

“Pish is red!”

Surprised I’d been busted so soon, I ran to her room and watched the little red pish paddle around. The ph balance of the water must have changed it because the deep red had worn off and it was nearly shiny – nothing like Flounder of the day before.

“Why Flounder red, daddy?”

Think! Think! Think!

“Flounder must be a magic fish,” was all that came.

“Ohhhhhh, magic pish,” she said in wonder.

From that day on, I was no longer tied to purple. Magic Pish changed colors frequently. I viewed the little scam as liberating until years later I heard her sincerely describing her color-changing fish as a young teen. I felt a rare twinge of guilt and had to come clean, which brought an open-mouth stare of horror as if her childhood had been shattered.

Please forgive me, Dr. Fringlehoben. If one of my children ever comes to sit on your couch, maybe you should just do a quick study of me to undo whatever damage I’ve caused. I can probably answer a great many of your questions.