A couple of years back, Cait was facing some difficult changes. No amount of putting a happy face on how it would all work out made a dent. She was focused on the loss and the feeling that she couldn’t control what was happening to her. I watched my happy-go-lucky, optimistic daughter turn into a despondent worrier.
Having spent my professional adulthood looking deeply into people’s lives, I fully understood how, sometimes, it only took one life event to cause a sea change in one’s world view. A feeling of powerlessness wasn’t a belief I wanted my daughter internalizing.
As adults, we all know the expression “Attitude is everything” is an important key to life. But trying to get a young child to understand this concept is no easy matter. If I wanted to help Cait viscerally comprehend how this worked, I needed to create a potent example that she could strongly relate to.
My intention was to teach Cait how to shift her thoughts from what she couldn’t control to what she could, and then show her how to take positive action in that direction. I wanted to have her experience that she was, indeed, in charge of her life and herself in every important way; and that she could think of something she did want to have happen and then take the steps to realize that. I set about looking for what that example might be.
Cait had had dreams–as in going to sleep and dreaming–of swimming in the ocean with dolphins ever since she was about three years old. This wasn’t because of any emphasis I put on exposing her to dolphins. While I thought dolphins were remarkable animals, I held no unusual fascination for them. No, this was an interest and a connection that was wholly her own. Just the thing I was looking for.
I didn’t have to wait long for Cait to tell me about another dolphin dream. When she did, I was ready. After she finished sharing the dream, I asked her, “What do you think it would be like to actually swim with dolphins in real life?”
Her eyes got as big as saucers as she started imagining, “It would be the most awesome thing in the whole world!”
“What do you think about trying to figure out how we could make that happen?”
Her response said it all; she immediately started weeping. Speechless, she just held onto me. Finally, when she could speak, she said, “Do you really mean it?”
“Yep, Dad and I talked, and we both agree that this is something you should do.”
She started weeping all over again. Which, of course, got me weeping.
“If we keep blubbering like this, we’ll fill our own ocean right here,” I said. We laughed through our tears.
It only took a minute for Cait’s mind to switch into action mode, “Mom, how are we going to find out where the dolphins are?”
I took her by the hand and led her to my computer. “Let’s see what we can find on the internet.” I sat her down and put her to work.
Research was done, plans were made, the trip was taken.
From the beginning, I knew this was important for Cait. But there was no way I could have fully known until the day came for Cait to swim with her dolphins. As I zipped the back of her wet suit, I could feel her trembling. I asked if she was nervous. She wasn’t, she said; it was just that she couldn’t believe this was actually happening. She was so overcome with emotions that it took several minutes for her to compose herself. We waited out the flow of tears and then reappeared from the dressing room.
Once in the water, a dolphin swam up to her and stuck her nose out to be petted. The look on Cait’s face could only be described as beatific. Cait gently reached out to pet her, and then she turned and held her fin for Cait to grab onto. The marine biologist explained how she should hold on and away they went.
That swim through the water seemed to wash away much of Cait’s recent pain. To say that she came back to shore a different person wouldn’t be an exaggeration. She’d had her sea change moment, literally; one that got internalized as “Life is full of Magic– if you’re willing to look for it, believe in it, and take action to draw it to you.”