Bring your tissues…you may need them at Dolphin Tale 2! It’s touching, and though there are some sad moments, it was the rejoicing ones which made me teary. The movie is clean, uplifting, inspiring…and inspired by a true story…overall I have to say it was just refreshing. Aside from the feel-good factor, it also had some simple but powerful messages that are worth discussing, whether you are four or forty. There’s something in here for all ages and all walks of life, but let me focus on just two—one for kids and their parents (today’s post), and the other for those of us who might be facing a change in life (tomorrow’s post).
Kids and Parents:
Clay, Hazel’s dad who ran the animal rescue/aquarium announced to his daughter and Sawyer his decision to release Mandy back into the wild. Releasing Mandy was a tough decision because of the implications of her release. Law required that dolphins not be kept alone in captivity. Winter’s partner just died and so she was alone. Because she had no tail, she could never be released back into the ocean, which meant if they were to keep her at their location, she had to be paired with another dolphin…fast. It had appeared that Mandy might be the answer to that need…until Clay announced his decision to release her back into the ocean, rather than pairing her with Winter.
Hazel and Sawyer were just high school students, but they had been a vital part of the business. Hazel was furious at her dad—not only for his decision, but for the way he made it and announced it. It didn’t make her feel like the mature, valued part of the business that she was. When he told her he wanted to talk, her reply was, “No. You’re thinking you should talk and I should listen.” There was some truth to that. Clay wanted his daughter to comply more than he wanted her input…partly because he wasn’t confident in the maturity of her input. Hazel wasn’t interested in being talked to, she wanted to be heard as well. She wanted a dialogue, not a lecture. (Sound familiar?)
She spoke to Sawyer’s mom about it, and Sawyer’s mom gave her some great advice. She explained to Hazel that, “You kids grow up so stinking fast you kind of take us by surprise. Talk to him [your dad] the way you want to be talked to. Do something grown up. Take him to coffee.” Hazel’s response, until that talk, had been immature. She had been angry and pouty, giving her dad the silent treatment. Lorraine challenged Hazel to begin to act like the person she wanted her dad to see her as. So she did.
Hazel went to her dad, stated her case, and asked to see the data. She reminded her dad very matter-of-factly that she was born the year he started the rescue, so technically she’d been there as long as he had. She’d been a vital part and was qualified to make good, informed decisions, rather than simply being informed of them. She asked to see Mandy’s file and upon review, she came the conclusion her dad had come to—there was no good reason to keep Mandy in captivity. She was there for rehab, had been successfully rehabilitated, and was ready for release. While a sacrifice for all of them, especially Winter, it was the right thing to do for Mandy.
Part of the reason Clay was willing to listen to Hazel (rather than the lecture that would have likely taken place earlier) was the very mature, confident way she approached the conversation. I’m sure it felt a little risky to him to let her think things over without his persuasive commentary, but she asked him to give her space to draw her own conclusions based on the data, and he agreed. In the end, she came to the same, painful conclusions Clay did. And, because Clay was willing to go into that uncertain territory with his daughter, he learned some great things about her maturity, wisdom, and business sense.
It’s a hard transition to make, for a parent and a child, to learn to adapt to maturing roles in your relationship as you grow. There are really probably four parts to that struggle, at least—how you see the other person, how you see yourself, how you think they see you and how they really see you. These are hard things to sort out. Often, we think we’ll act differently (and/or feel differently) when someone treats us differently. Maybe. But often it’s the reverse, they treat us differently when we first act (and/or feel) differently. Hazel wanted her dad to treat her like an adult; she first had to act like one.
I once worked at a camp that talked a lot about how parents had to learn (especially in the teen years) to transition from cop to coach. Kids run from the cops, but are drawn to the coach. For Hazel and Clay it was a shift from boss to partner that they had to make, but the idea is the same. It’s hard to change from roles of subordination to equality, but the change is a must, and it’s one that teaches your child how much you value them as people. It’s a risky transition in so many ways. You can’t guarantee that your child will agree with you, will come to the conclusions you want them to. You are relinquishing a lot of control over their lives when you go from cop to coach, boss to partner. The potential gain is great, however. You will likely learn a lot about your child that you never knew. And more than likely you’ll find a shift in your heart towards your child, away from fear and control toward love and trust and respect…which will bless you both.
Questions for Discussion
- Do you feel your parents trusts you to make your own decisions? / Do you feel you trust your child to make your own decisions?
- Do you feel you get talked to, or listened to when you have to talk about difficult things? Is it a conversation or a lecture?
- Would you say your parent is a cop or a coach in your relationship? A boss or a partner?
- For Hazel’s dad to see her like and adult, she had to act like an adult. Is there an area in which you wish people treated you differently? How might you act differently so that they treat you the way you want? In other words, do you think the way you act/behave can affect the way people see you and therefore the way people treat you? If so, what does the way people treat you tell you about the way you act…and how can you change it?
- Is there an area in which your kid wishes you treated them differently? Can you discuss with them how they would like you to change, and how they might also need to change as well…how you can both partner in that transition?