Good Parenting IS the Small Stuff

Susan Kelley
6 min readJun 1, 2023

It’s Really ALL the Small Stuff

Photo by DEAR on Unsplash

When I was in the eighth grade, I asked for a fish tank for Christmas. I envisioned a simple ten-gallon tank with some bright swimmers darting about, maybe one of those crooked castles where the fish would play hide and seek. Sort of a real-life version of the comic book sea monkeys advertisements. Tiny crowns and personalities swimming about in clear water. Itty bitty friends behind the glass.

My friend Jenny and her brother Charles had a fish tank in their family’s dining room. In it was a single goldfish they’d won at the town carnival a few years before. Their fish had grown to a size commensurate with the tank, barely able to turn around in the length of it. The animal wasn’t really a goldfish, per se, having much closer connections to its carp ancestry than the teensy ones we usually imagine. I was aiming for the cute little ones.

I got the fish tank, and my dad set about installing it in our living room. It sat atop a rustic four-legged table, not far from our console television set, lit with a flickering fluorescent bulb, its dancing glow a soothing play of liquid motion waiting for its inhabitants.

The following Sunday, we made the 35-minute drive to Weston’s, the nearest aquarium supply store. We bought colorful rocks and plastic plants, all the things for a thriving tank. We bought a single bright orange fish witha feathery tail. I’m sure I gave it a silly name. And then we made the 35-minute drive back. I don’t remember the color of the rocks. Or the kinds of plants. I don’t remember if we bought a crooked castle for the fish to play hide and seek.

I remember the warm cab of my dad’s truck, and that it felt good to spend a whole Sunday with him. The smell of anise candy. His long-winded Irish jokes. His light, yet meaningful advice. We just enjoyed the small stuff.

The only creature living in the tank just then was that single, scrappy fancy goldfish.

Within a year, my dad’s doctor warned him of his high blood pressure, combined with his two pack a day Lucky Strike habit and stressful job and cautioned that if he didn’t find a relaxing hobby, his time would be short.

Dad enjoyed my fish, mentioned this to the doc, who agreed that keeping fish was…



Susan Kelley

Susan is a runner, a mom of 3 grown children, and an avid traveler. She writes about humans, and wrote a book about false accusations of sexual assault.