Is it just my kids or will siblings fight over anything?
Yesterday, one of our hermit crabs died. In point of fact, it was three or four days ago that the crab died - or, I should say, that we discovered him dead. He might have died up to a week before that. Who knows? Those animals are nocturnal so during the day they do nothing and look dead anyway. Its no wonder the kids haven't played with them, or even looked at them, in weeks. In fact, I've forgotten all about the crabs. Every so often, I'll pass by the Hermitage, as I like to call it, and I'll see their unmoving shells and I'll wonder if anyone in our house is making the slightest effort to keep them living. David is, I think. He's the zookeeper of the house, as it relates to the actual animals, and not just the children that act like animals. I'm pretty sure he wets the crabs' sponge which is the only thing one must do to keep those primitive life forms in good health.
Anyway, one night a few days ago, David said: "One hermit crab is eating the other."
"WHAT?" I cried. As you may know, I'm not the biggest animal-lover out there, and if I was, hermit crabs certainly wouldn't be the animals that won my affection but even I draw the line somewhere, "Is it alive or dead?"
"The one being EATEN!"
"Dead. Definitely dead," replied David, "Though I can't tell if it was dead first or dead once the eating began."
"David," I said, "That is really fucked up."
And then, "Do something!"
He did. He threw the dead one out in the garbage.
I figured that he'd handle breaking the news to the kids. Honestly, they haven't so much as glanced in the direction of the Hermitage in weeks so I didn't think they'd be all that broken up about it.
Which was naive, on my part. I found this out when I accidentally broke the news to them while telling it to their part time babysitter.
"Yeah, we're down to one crab now. A one-crab household," I told her.
"What?" exclaimed Seconda, "What happened to the other one?"
"Well, honey, it died," I informed her gently.
"WHICH ONE?" she shrieked, "Whose crab?"
"I don't know," I answered honestly, "They both look exactly the same to me. I can't tell them apart."
"It was Primo's!" she affirmed.
"WHAT?" Primo piped up, "My hermit crab died? How do you know it was mine?"
"I just KNOW!"
"That is SO unfair! Why didn't SECONDA'S die?"
He did not appear to be upset that the crab had passed on, just upset that Seconda's hadn't.
This, among other reasons, is why you should not acquire hermit crabs. They may be easy to keep alive - requiring little to no effort -- but they will cause problems, even after death.
"Now what?" Primo asked, "Its just not fair that Seconda has a pet and I don't."
I was considering telling them to share the existing crab -- a joint custody situation -- or pointing out that we don't actually know whose crab died, seeing as they were pretty much interchangeable -- but then I decided to go with: "Life isn't fair."
Which is true enough.
"But to console you after this terrible heartbreak, I will allow you to play video games for ten minutes. WIll that soften the blow?"
"YES!" Primo exclaimed.
RIP Hermes. I may not be an animal-lover, may not even be able to identify the crab in a line-up but I do remember his name.
Nicole is a parenting writer who contributes essays and articles for magazines like Parenting, Parents, American Baby and Babble. She lives in Brooklyn with three children, one husband and a morbidly obese goldfish.