Did You Catch These Cool Parenting Tips in Finding Dory?
- Ken Roach
- 2016 20 Jun
Parents, you may not be in the habit of taking advice from fish, especially not animated fish with short-term memory loss...but perhaps you should start.
Finding Dory, long-awaited sequel to the classic Finding Nemo, is another feel-good family film from Pixar Animation Studios. Spunky Nemo, his worried dad Marlin, and forgetful Dory are back with a new adventure to find Dory's long-lost parents. Yet behind the laughs, master storyteller John Lasseter and his crew at Pixar have crafted a poignant parenting parable that Christian moms and dads would do well to heed.
Finding Nemo was primarily a tale about letting children grow up—the complicated tension every parent must navigate between safety and challenge, between holding on too tightly and letting go too soon. When Nemo is lost from his overly protective dad, he learns a new level of self-reliance. At the same time, Marlin discovers greater courage for himself when he is forced to do what it takes to go out and find his son.
[Spoilers] Finding Dory comes at things from the opposite end. Through a series of flashbacks we see that Dory's parents, Charlie and Jenny, must take extraordinary measures to compensate for their daughter's short-term memory loss. The plan they come up with is simple: create a pathway of seashells that Dory loves that will catch her eye and lead her back home should she become lost.
Despite Charlie and Jenny's best efforts, Dory is swept away, and spends years wandering the ocean before she begins to remember her family. In the most beautiful (and a little tear-jerking) scene of the movie, we discover that all the time Dory has been gone, Charlie and Jenny have stayed put, faithfully building onto their seashell pathways, trusting that eventually they will lead their daughter home.
Of course, most of us don't deal with children who have memory issues as severe as Dory's (although mine do seem to suffer from sudden memory issues when I give them instructions on cleaning the house). However, throughout the course of the film it becomes clear that Dory's inability to remember is a broader symbol for a certain type of child—those whose approach to life is more spur-of-the-moment and less planned, more leap and less look. We see in Dory the child who is labelled with "attention deficit" but who perhaps is also more creative, curious, artistic, and optimistic. Finding Dory tries to show us the good side of children who tend to get lost from their path in life—that they are more likely to try new things and have more new life experiences as a result.
For those who have children who have gone astray in life, this "look on the bright side" message may fall short. In the real world, sometimes our children make tragic choices that we can't control, and that we know will bring them (and us) years of pain. Ultimately, we must learn to trust God, who alone can turn even the darkest situations into something good and give us "beauty for ashes" through the redemption offered in Christ.
In the meantime, however, we can take a tip from Dory's parents and learn to create seashell paths that just might lead our wayward children home again in time. Here are some practical suggestions:
- Start when they are young with memorable, repetitive experiences. First and foremost would be regular participation in worship at your local church, where the rhythm of liturgy, song, celebration and preaching may not seem to be penetrating your child's heart, but they create "seashells in the path" that they may recall many years later.
- Build on your church traditions with family rituals: morning devotions, bedtime prayers, mealtime blessings, and seasonal traditions such as Advent candles before Christmas and Lenten crosses before Easter. Teaching your children with words is important, but teaching that is enacted through rituals has a deeper level of emotional impact and makes a longer imprint on a child's memory.
- Encourage your child to not only read but memorize key scripture passages. Consider rewarding them for each verse they "hide in their heart." Reading can sometimes go "in one ear and out the other," but when we take the time to memorize we create leverage points that the Holy Spirit can continue to use even if they wander far away from God's written Word.
Most importantly, like Charlie and Jenny, know when to faithfully "stay put." Continue to be who you are, following Jesus even when your child is not. Build on your "seashell path" by faithfully praying for your child each day. Sometimes, as much as we would like to go out and "find" our children, they go beyond our reach. But that doesn't mean they are beyond the reach of the Good Shepherd, who has proven time and again his ability to find bring home the lost sheep...or the forgetful fish.
*Ken Roach is a Writer and Content Developer at Frazer Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and the co-author of How to Ruin Your Child in Seven Easy Steps.