What Mary Poppins taught me about parenting

You know in Hitch, when Will Smith tells Kevin James to meditate on the image of an iceberg? When Henry does that no no no no screech no no thing – usually accompanied by an arched back and a drop to the floor, and almost always in public, because he’s no fool – I meditate on the image of Mary Poppins.

I want that kind-but-brisk tone in her voice. Her children know exactly where they stand and love her for it. She’s always in charge, but she’s not averse to sliding down the bannisters. She believes in feeding birds (urgh) but also in noticing the old lady who looks after them. And she looks extremely snazzy in a straw hat.

All of which is to say that Mary Poppins gets a lot of things right. Including that, sometimes, a good kite is a bit like flying yourself. And getting to fly it with your dad, whether or not he’s just been fired from his bank job and waltzed home in a broken bowler hat, is the most exciting thing ever. Our tiny kite was a freebie from Tim’s conference the other week, and the flying ground was the scrubby bit of grass outside our flat on the way home from church, but I have still been bellowing ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’ up and down stairs since Sunday. Little moments like that feel like the stuff childhood is made of. I don’t know whether Hen will remember it, but I will.

Also, one should never confuse efficiency with a liver complaint. Children with wet feet must learn to take their medicine. And there’s a whole world at your feet, but sometimes only the birds, the stars, and the chimney sweeps get to see it. Look a little higher, and you can, too.

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4 thoughts on “What Mary Poppins taught me about parenting

  1. Have you watched Mary Poppins recently? Because I have. And here’s what I noticed that I had never picked up before: The mother is a complete loser, too, all wrapped up in her own life and completely helpless/unhelpful when it comes to her own children. AND! This is never addressed! The father has this big journey to becoming a better dad, more engaged, etc, and the mom just coasts along in her oblivious state, uncorrected. It really knocked my opinion of the film down a few pegs.

    But yay! Kites! I am impressed that Henry could hold onto it, because I let my kids hold ours this spring and despite my warnings, Alice let it go and we had to chase it clear across the park and then coax it down from a tree.

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    • Hmm, yes, I agree – I watched it at Christmas and noticed how fluttery and useless she was. But she is at least kind to them, which the dad is not, so I suppose that’s something.

      Ha, that’s brilliant. I was surprised we got it up in the air and it stayed there, considering it was a free mini kite and that tiny patch of grass was not the most encouraging of spots to try it!

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