Don't ever let anyone tell you that you can't spank a fish.
I don't have any children, but I saw what my wife will be like as a mother over the weekend.
In the unending saga of our saltwater aquarium, Miriam and I added a few new residents last week. (Actually, we were replacing a couple of fish that didn't survive a recent water quality problem we experienced. And, yes, Brad - our chief fish advisor down at Bob's Tropical Fish - thinks we're fish murderers. I'm almost starting to wonder if he's right...)
Anyway, this time we added a tomato clown fish - a redder relative of Nemo - and an anemone. From the first moment the red fish hit the water, he became a target for the largest fish in our undersea world - a bright yellow fish called, appropriately enough, a lemon peel.
Well, that just wouldn't do for my wife. Her pent-up maternal instincts kicked in, and she used a bamboo skewer to smack the lemon peel every time he got near the tomato clown. And, like any good mother, she explained to the yellow fish exactly why he was getting poked and prodded around the tank. She even dared him to get close to the red fish, saying "I told you!" when he'd get hit again.
The strange thing is that - for the most part - the lemon peel was keeping his distance from the clown fish after a weekend of discipline. I'm sure there's a message in there for me, but I'd rather not think about it. Or risk giving my wife the idea to start smacking me with a bamboo pole - just for good measure.
Speaking of fish, a fish story from my parents' house illustrates how my mom is mellowing.
I've long needled my loving mother about the sympathy she showed a freshwater fish a few years ago. I had gotten home from college and mom told me to go and flush a certain fish in her aquarium. I figured the fish had died, and I was going to just have to scoop him out and do my duty.
The fish was still alive - feisty, in fact. That was the problem.
"He was being mean to the other fish, so he gets flushed," she said.
And I immediately began formulating plans to ensure her future grandchildren didn't spend too much time with Grandma - just in case she found an extra large toilet suitable for Jason Jr.
But last week, I saw a different Millie.
She called me Thursday - almost in tears - asking me to come take a look at one of her clown fish. He was laying on the bottom, and I needed to flush him. When I got there, she never got weepy, but I could tell it was bothering her.
So, it seems I'm still on fish flushing duty, but maybe the grandkids will be safe now.
Meanwhile, get out your pen and paper folks. It's time for our annual Write for the Roses competition. All you have to do is tell us what's so great about your significant other. The writer of the best one gets a $150 shopping spree, a dozen roses from Peacock Hill, and dinner for two at 1810.