The calming benefits of the aquarium

After the scoliosis scare I wanted to do something light with Maggie. I wanted to celebrate with some new fish for her tank.  We had bought a fish tank for her many moons ago and she loves it, and I wrote about the decision to do that here: Swims with the Fishes

But beyond that initial joy, it’s provided many therapeutic benefits.  She sits in her bed and stares at her fish swimming so effortlessly in the water and it calms her. We will often find her in the morning, having gotten herself out of bed, just standing in front of her fish tank and staring. Even when the tank light is out, she will watch them, getting closer to make out the shapes in the water.

Is she envious of their ease of movement? Does she wish she could be in there with them? I know I do. It’s so calm and tranquil and other than the one jerk fish who keeps biting at your tail, things don’t seem so bad.

We made a trip to the fish store, or “The aquarium” as she calls it on her Tobii, to celebrate our victory at the orthopedist’s. It actually is better than most aquariums. All the fish are colorful, there are tons of them and the crowd is manageable since no one goes into a fish store anymore. Except us. We’ve actually been going since even before Rett syndrome as just something to do – she gets to see a bunch of fish, it’s free to browse, and no one bothers you.

On this trip, we were aiming to invest in some additional fish because two of her fish suddenly died.  She noticed first and got very emotional about it.  Many parents have a tough time explaining death to their children.  We are no different.  And considering she can’t ask any real questions, we could only explain in so far as we felt comfortable. I hope it was enough.

We walked around and I asked Maggie to help me choose the fish.  I showed her some Mollies and she looked away, “no.  I don’t want those.”  We looked at some fish like the ones we already have and “no, I don’t want that.”  “No” from her to tiny fish and “no” from me to the giant expensive fish.  When we got to the glow in the dark fish, her face lit up. I got an enthusiastic “yes” to a new breed of glow in the dark fish that stay illuminated under a black light; a breed that I have no idea how evolution ever created; and some new decorations that she also helped pick out, as well as one snail that I picked out by myself.

Cleaning the tank is a chore I am admittedly neglectful of, so we keep buying creatures that will do it for us.  We started out with a sucker fish, but now he got so big eating fish waste that he creates more waste than he can consume.  Gross.  So hopefully our friend the snail will help.  The snail is now one of Maggie’s favorites.  He hides most of the day, and we look for him whenever we’re in her room watching the tank.  But every morning he comes out to clean.  Maggie will often get my attention with her eyes, and divert that attention to the snail as if to say, “Dad, I found him today.”

“You sure did, sweetie.  He’s a good hider.”

She’s already a major Dead Head, so a black light in the room seems like the next evolution. Now, a black light illuminated fish tank with glow in the dark fish and accoutrements is her nightlight.

She doesn’t count sheep. She counts fish.  And 1 snail.

No video this week as my fish store video didn’t quite turn out.  Back to videos next week.

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