Care and Feeding

My Son Accidentally Killed His First Pet. Should He Get a Second Chance?

After all, he is really busy…

A fish in a bowl.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I have a low-stakes question. I bought my 13-year-old son “Matt” a pet fish named Milo a few weeks ago, and I told him that he was responsible for feeding him. Unfortunately, he was busy studying for a big exam, combined with being a star soccer player with multiple 2-hour practices a week and forgot to feed Milo, so he died. Matt has taken ownership of his mistake, is devastated, and wants a second chance with another fish.

My husband says he shouldn’t get a second chance because he’s proven that he’s not ready for the responsibility. I think he’s a young teenager who’s balancing being a straight-A student with being a soccer player, and he should have a chance at redemption after making an honest mistake. What do you think?

—This is Fishy

Dear This is Fishy,

I’m 100 percent on your side. Your son is a straight-A student while playing a sport, and that requires levels of discipline and responsibility that a lot of middle schoolers don’t have. Not only that, Matt is extremely upset about this, which shows that he wants another chance to show that he can provide the same level of dedication to a fish that he has to other areas of his life.

Give him the opportunity to learn from this low-stakes mistake and let him be a fish daddy again. Denying him the chance at redemption could potentially make things worse for his self-esteem, and then it would become a high-stakes problem. Don’t we want to raise kids who take ownership of their mistakes? Matt seems like a great young man, and he should be allowed a second chance.


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