From the archives: This story was last updated in March 2019.
Tori Hamlin, from Georgia, had the shock of her life when she peeped into her 4-year-old son Everett’s bedroom one night: the little boy was fast asleep in bed but upon closer inspection was tightly cradling his beloved pet goldfish. Tori gently woke him up and explained that the fish, “Nemo,” had sadly passed away.
YALL, I CANNOT MAKE THIS STUFF UP!! We put Everett to bed and we’re in the living room watching a movie and heard a…
Everett owned up that he had “just wanted to pet it.” He had no idea the little guy would perish when removed from his tank. “I was shocked at first,” Tori shared, “but then when he said he just wanted to pet it I was thinking, ‘oh my god, that’s so sad.’ I didn’t think it was funny that he killed it!”
“I’m surprised he caught it,” the thoughtful mom continued. “He’s got some good skills there. Maybe the fish was just so used to seeing him that he was comfortable with him next to the tank.”
Everett has loved fish since he was just a few months old, and the tank that was set up in pride of place in his own bedroom had been a source of fascination for quite some time. “His tank had different color lights so he loved looking … and picking out different things to put in the tank,” Tori explained.
The bedtime mishap occurred shortly after Everett’s normal going-to-bed routine: Tori and her husband, Corey, read their son a bedtime story and then retreated to the living room to watch a movie before hearing an odd noise from Everett’s room. “We called him in and asked him what happened, and he said it was nothing,” Tori recalled.
Tori checked on him a short while later and noticed that the sleeping boy had nudged his little chair up against the side of his dresser. The tank, sitting on top of the dresser, was missing its lid and the goldfish was gone. Tori called her husband in confusion and the two quietly inspected the boy’s room. Peering over the bed, Tori jumped back in shock: her sleeping son was holding the little fish in his hand.
“We woke him up,” Tori went on, “and asked him why he was holding his fish. He said, ‘I just wanted to pet it.’ So we were like, ‘Buddy, you killed your fish. Fish can’t live out of water.’”
Inevitably, little Everett was devastated. But he understood that actions have consequences and quickly internalized his short, sharp lesson in life (and death—sorry, Nemo!). Everett was perky again the very next morning. “We’ll have to get another fish and I won’t touch it. I’m only allowed to touch fish when I go fishing,” he said.
“Not every kid listens to their parent and learns from that,” shared Tori, proud of her son’s sensible approach to learning a very tough lesson. “It’s part of parenting and growing up.” The amused yet still completely shocked mom posted the story online and received more than 65,000 comments, likes, and shares. Some people even offered to buy sweet little Everett a brand-new fish. But his parents were one step ahead, giving their son a gift card for his birthday and the opportunity to pick out a new buddy—this time, one that he’d leave safely in the tank to thrive.
“When we were engaged we had four or five tanks,” Tori revealed. “We got really into the fish tanks. So when Everett was little we couldn’t wait to give him a fish. He’s always loved it.” Nemo had been orange when they bought him, Tori continued, but by the time he died his color had faded. “It was so crazy,” she said. “He lived a longer life than most goldfish.”
Everett quickly picked out a new, colorful buddy for his illuminated bedroom fish tank, and this time, it’s figurative hugs only.
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