I bet you thought Finding Nemo was a movie for kids.
Thanks to a new enthusiasm for all things fishy in my daughter, I can now claim to know most of Finding Nemo off by heart. And it’s great!
I was singing along to Dory’s happy little song “Just Keep Swimming” and it hit me: This is a brilliant example of a single parent family.
The struggles, the triumphs, the despair– Marlin is totally living my life. Underwater, of course.
So here are seven things Finding Nemo taught me about being a single parent:
1) It’s the moments that matter
I just love the conversation that Nemo and Marlin have at the beginning of the film. Nemo is jumping from one topic to another. Have you met a shark? How old are sea turtles? Marlin, like most parents keeps just enough of his attention on the conversation to not get caught out. But he really isn’t interested or involved at all.
How desperately does Marlin wish he had paid attention to that innocent little chat when his son is taken away? Only when he thinks all is lost does he realise the importance of that moment with his son.
But it teaches us a lesson: cherish the moments. You don’t know what might happen in the future.
2) Give them some slack
Marlin is overly obsessed with his son’s safety. Then he meets a sea turtle who lets his tiny offspring tumble into danger alone.
When the little turtle gets himself back to the family, the celebration is heartfelt and the baby is overjoyed with his achievement.
Marlin watches in bemusement and asks the older turtle how he knew not to act. Crush, the 150 year old surfer dude, replies: “You never really know, but when they know, you’ll know. You know?” Right, then.
As a single parent we can be over-protective. We don’t have anyone to temper our protective urges and let our children discover things the hard way. I have to let my children hurt themselves and get back up, try things even if it doesn’t work, stretch themselves. Otherwise they will never grow into the adults they are meant to be.
3) If you can’t see the silver lining, find someone who can
We are our own worst enemy. We get so caught up in tiredness and negative thoughts that we can’t see any way out. How far would Marlin have got without Dory? Not very far at all, in fact there really is no story without Dory. Why? Because she, in her own words, sees the cup as “half full.”
Time and again, Dory’s can-do attitude keeps Marlin going. Her optimism and warmth win them friends, directions, warnings. Marlin’s negative attitude nearly gets them killed.
The lesson to be learned? If you struggle to see the bright side of life, find someone who can – and listen to them.
On his epic quest, Marlin must drop his mistrust, just to survive. Dory tries to teach him trust but it takes a long time for him to make progress. At one point he asks her, “How do you know something bad isn’t going to happen?” “I don’t,” she says. And there it is: trust in action.
Trust is so important if we don’t want to live in fear. As parents we must trust in other people, that our children will be alright with them. We must trust in our own parenting skills as well, that we have given our children the skills and savvy to survive and thrive out there. We fear that our mistakes may have terrible consequences for our children’s future. Banish that fear, and trust.
5) Find a support group
Remember Bruce? Who can forget the great white shark following the 12 Steps to a fish free life?
Every human needs a group to belong to. In today’s transient society, we’ve lost that connection. How many parents grieve that their children are growing up not knowing their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins? We think of our own childhoods where we lived near our extended families and grew up supported, encouraged and belonging. Our children are not experiencing that.
Even if you have no family, once you have a child to take to swimming, playgroup, or kinder gym, a hundred other parents surround you. Take advantage of this and start building connections. You have nothing to lose. But if you take the trouble and make a friend, the gains can be incredible. Give it a try.
6) Ask for help
Oh boy, do we hate asking for help! Even if someone does offer, how many of you say, “Oh, no, I’m ok, thanks.”? And then curse yourself?
To every struggling parent out there, follow Dory’s example. Ask for and accept all offers of help! If they aren’t specific (“Just tell me what I can do, OK?”), tell them. If they don’t follow through, what have you lost? But if you say, “Ok: I need bread, milk and cheese from the supermarket. I need my floors vacuumed and my laundry done. I need four hours to myself where I can sleep in my own bed and know that my child will be cared for.” What is the worst that could happen? Honestly?
Now what is the best that might happen? It’s a no-brainer.
And above all else…
7) Just keep swimming
Ah, Dory. How I love that little, bubble-headed fish.
No matter what life throws at her, she just keeps on singing her song. “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!”
We all need that reminder sometimes. When it’s one job after another all day long, sometimes all you can do is focus on the task at hand and keep on keeping on until you get to the end.
There will be an end, honestly, and you may even feel sad when it comes – these childhood years don’t last forever.
When it all seems too much, remember the end game and just keep swimming.
Do you relate to this as a single parent? Please SHARE your thoughts below.