Gotta Watch the Fish Eat

Gotta Watch the Fish Eat

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

Gotta Watch the Fish Eat

What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it . . . let it be something good.


I did something very daring today. I said, “No.” I was at a meeting where I was asked to serve on a committee that would require numerous Thursday evening meetings. And I said, “No.”

I declined politely, even graciously, but it wasn’t enough. The others just looked at me, waiting. Three long seconds, four, five. Waiting, waiting for my important excuse. They couldn’t move on until I had explained my answer.

“You see,” I continued, “I really want to be home to tuck the kids in bed at night.” Most of the others around the table nodded in understanding. “Well,” the chairperson offered, “we can make sure we’re done by eight-thirty, so you can be home in time to tuck the kids in.” The others murmured in affirmation, and turned back to me, expectantly, waiting for my response.

“Well,” I explained, “that’s right when we are watching the fish eat.” The others weren’t impressed. “You see,” I continued, “on Thursdays, after I’ve quizzed the children for Friday’s spelling tests, we watch the fish. It’s just an important time in our family’s week. It seems to set the tone for the next day, and when I’m gone on Thursday nights, Fridays just don’t go as well.” My words sounded rather weak and almost silly as they tumbled out.No one said, “Oh, of course, Cheryl, we understand!” They were still waiting.

Now, I could have added, “But, you see, I’ve got a book manuscript due to the publisher in two months that I have got to work on.” That would have been sufficiently important. After all, that’s my career. They would have nodded in understanding, and quickly moved on. But the truth is, I’m not writing between 7:30 and 8:30 P.M. on Thursday evenings. I’m being Mom. I’m reviewing spelling words for Friday’s tests. I’m checking math answers. I’m making sure permission notes are signed, book reports are written and weekly assignments completed. And when school work is done, and the children have brushed their teeth and gotten into their PJs, the family gathers on the couch in front of the aquarium to watch the fish eat. We feed the fish every night, of course. But on Thursdays we make an effort to sit together as a family and watch them. This is when I heard about Blake’s plans to be a paleontologist. It’s when I learned about how Bryce handled the bully on the playground. This is when Sarah Jean explained why she doesn’t want to wear bows in her hair anymore.

The committee members were still looking at me. Feeling guilty, I almost changed my mind to say, “Okay, I’ll do it.” But I didn’t. Because my reason for saying no is important. On Thursday evenings, we watch the fish eat.

Cheryl Kirking

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