Today, I was in a movie theatre comparing myself to a clown fish. That doesn’t happen every day. I took my two daughters to see maybe one of the best animated films of all time, in my humble opinion. Most of you can probably guess by now that I’m referring to Finding Nemo. Just in case somebody reading this hasn’t seen the movie, it is a story about a very dedicated and over-protective father and his son…who happens to have one underdeveloped fin.
I have watched this movie over a hundred times on video cassette, and never once pondered how I was and was not like the father in this story. Maybe it was the impact of the large screen, or the fabulous 3D, but today I found myself relating to this clown fish as a parent of a child with an impairment of some kind. In the beginning of this movie, the Dad tells his son that he just can’t do certain things. With a look of sheer determination, the son immediately proves him wrong. I have seen that look.
That is when I started thinking about all the times I give Eddie more assistance than he needs, or discourage him from trying things that I’m not sure he can do. I want him to be successful, and therefore steer him away from struggles and greater challenges. However, by doing so, I am telling him by my actions if not by my words that he isn’t capable. I am breaking down his confidence instead of building it up.
Lately, I’ve been encouraging Eddie to do even more things independently. He often seeks out an escort, or simply someone to hold his hand as he moves around the house. Often times, he gets exactly what he’s looking for because we want to help him. Well, I’ve stopped being his personal escort, and instead push him to go forward alone. Instead of asking, “what do you need,” or “where do you want to go,” I don’t ask any questions. I simply say, “Eddie can do it.”
Amazingly, with those four short words, Eddie often turns around and moves forward alone. There isn’t a fight. He doesn’t cry like he used to when I’d say, “Eddie, I’m busy,” or “not right now, Eddie.” He just must be thinking to himself that if mom said I can do it, than I must be able to do it. As success keeps coming with that short phrase, I can’t help but kick myself for not starting to use it sooner.
Even though I had been leaning towards asking for more independence from Eddie, I am grateful for the movie that confirmed my suspicions today. Who knew that I would actually learn something from a movie date with my kids, and that I would find one thing in common with a fictitious clown fish? My new goal for myself is to remind Eddie daily that, “Eddie, can do it,” and then we will “just keep swimming.”