Just Keep Swimming


The girls love going to the movies. I’m not sure which part they find more exciting; watching the actual movie or getting their slush puppy and popcorn combo. Our seating arrangement is key; aisle – child – mom – child – child – dad. This way, there is a child next to a set of hands that can do some explaining, whilst maximizing the ray of light from the wall adjacent to the aisle. Maximal light to enable mom (and dad) to interpret, as not to miss what the un-lipreadable animated characters are saying.

Animated films these days are fabulous, even as an adult, I could thoroughly enjoy being drawn into the plot and quite easily fall in love with one of the cute characters. That’s not an option, currently, as our mission in the cinema, is to see our girls enjoy and understand. There is always a fair amount of post-movie reflection when we are back home, to fill in any gaps or elaborate on some of the “morals of the story.” As they get older, we’ll advocate for captioned showings, and perhaps have access to FM technology too.

Movie time is fun, I love seeing them giggle at parts, that from the evident silence from the surrounding seats, no one else found funny – animation subtleties that produces a funny facial expression or silly gesture. They are also well aware of when they may have missed something, so I’m ready for the enthusiastic arm tapping which is my prompt to “rewind” and explain fast enough, as not to miss future events whilst settling the understanding of the past events.

A few weeks ago, the school holiday treat of Sunday afternoon family movie, had arrived. The girls, torn between the movie posters at the ticket counter and the snack menu across the cinema hall, were debating between a few options. “The blue fish movie, Mom,” pleaded Eden. “Finding Dory,”( or Dor-ree, as we cue it) was the decision.

Prepared to view superficially, and be available to interpret and explain, pass popcorn and clean sticky fingers, I wasn’t expecting that I would connect with the story. Now, if you haven’t watched the movie and intend on doing so, stop reading, watch and come back to this. I’d hate to be a spoiler!

Dory is a fish who has a chronic condition of “short term memory loss”. She’s a special needs child-fish, if you like. She loses her family, and essentially starts a journey of discovering who she is. It reveals how her parents really loved her, how they were so proud of her, and when they lost her, they gave up their little fish-lives, made themselves vulnerable, and devoted themselves to finding her. Not by convectional means of searching and searching, but rather “following” Dory – in essence, a journey of patiently waiting for Dory to find herself.

Their little forgetful daughter had a love of following trails of clam shells. Something her parents had taught her, to help her find her way home, should she forget. Something that they knew, worked for her. Over the years of having lost their little blue and yellow precious, they devoted their lives to laying shell trails in every direction possible, in the hope that, what once worked for Dory, would lead her home.

Yes, this probably seems ridiculous; a grown woman reflecting on a cartoon about a forgetful lost fish!

Whilst engrossed in the home coming scene, a little hand prodded my arm, “Mom what happened now? Mom? Mom why are you…crying?” Mom was captivated by the special-needs-family metaphor.

Special needs parents have two choices. Give up, or give it your all. Those of us who opt to give it our everything, will lay down our lives for our kids, we’ll figure out what works for them, what will “lead them home”. What will help them to find who they are – who they were made to be? Special needs parents get tired, they are worried a LOT of the time, but their hearts burst with love and pride for the little people who have changed their everything. Special needs parents who choose to be committed, are choosing a life of perseverance. A life that requires them to practice patience, a life that often challenges their very weaknesses. It is often uncomfortable, and sometimes really hard. But it can be, and often is, quite beautiful. Special needs parents understand the meaning of…the need to “just keep swimming.”

Finding Hadassah…what will that story tell? What will I need to give up, embrace and fight for, to see Tahlita and Eden discover who they were meant to be and how they will get there? It will require me to surrender my dreams AND fears..and TRUST. Trusting, when everything seems unknown, when there are many barriers and battles still to overcome. Trusting, I think this is one of the hardest things that I find about this journey. But trust I do, not because I have things figured out nor because I feel brave (since most of the time I don’t, really). Trust because I choose to. Trust because I know the One who wrote this story.

My girls, and our journey of discovering how best to parent them, and then being part of their individual journeys of discovering who they were made to be…how they want to “be” deaf, is giving me the space to savour the things about parenting, that I think I may have otherwise overlooked. One of the most interesting aspects of “finding” my three, is that, If I allow it, I get to “find” myself a little more each day too.