Ah yes, Finding Nemo. A great animated film from Pixar animations that once again puts a dad in the main character spot. In this tale of the seas, Nemo gets scooped up by a crazy Aussie dentist and his dad, Marlin, sets off on an epic adventure to find his son. Facing sharks, jellyfish, and a whole slew of awesome characters, Marlin sets off to do what most dads would do in that situation: risking their life for their children.
The adventure to find his son is not what gets this movie into this post today though. The inspiration came from the very beginning of the movie. As Nemo is getting ready for his first day of school, we find Marlin is a lot more scared than his son. This fear drives a major over-protective mode that eventually is what ends up driving the bigger story of this animated film.
As a parent, I have many fears when it comes to my children. What parent doesn’t? There are the fears of injury, fears of illness, and fears of the unknown. The inspiration found in Finding Nemo comes to me like this: Pushing your fears off on your children can have negative, and potentially serious consequences. If we push our fears too hard on our children, we either raise them to always be afraid, or we raise them to be defiant. Both are not healthy options at all.
After these thoughts hit me I spent a little time thinking about how I push my own fears on the kiddos. Even things as simple as “don’t jump off of that” and “I don’t think you should go play with them outside of our yard”. I think about fears that will come to me as my children grow older. Some things are inevitable. They will get hurt, they will get picked on, and they will probably be in trouble in school at some point. My job is not to force those fears upon them and make them hermits. My job is to prepare them for what to do when those times come.
Wanting what’s best is not always doing our best to prevent life from happening. This pushing of fear can have serious repercussions in the future. They may become defiant of other rules we lay out that need to be laid out. They may become defiant to a point that bad decisions become a way of life, just for spite. I know that may seem like a stretch, but really think about it. Marlin pushed too hard based on his own fears, and there you had the whole mission for the story line.
What did I take from all of this? One of the hardest things about being a parent is not being an over parent. As children, we can live with our fears because someone is always there to ease them for us. But as dads, we cannot do the same. We are the relievers of fear, not the creators. Stepping back when it is needed is not always easy to do. It is hard to just let our children explore their world sometimes, especially at the hint of even the slightest danger. Skinned knees and the request to kiss it better still melt me. We have to let it happen though. We have to let our children have a little slack in the line, or they will never learn to go through life without a life line.
As time goes by, maybe taking a step back will become an easier step to take. I kind of doubt it, but you never know. What I do know is that it is a step that I will have to make time and time again. It may not be easy, and it may not be fun. But it will be the right step at the right moment. And it will be the step my children need me to make.