One day, as I was out and about with a four year old Jack and a two year old Creed, I acquired a copy of Walt Disney's "Mary Poppins." We arrived home that afternoon, popped the DVD in and pressed play. I remembered very little about the film from my youth. Something about dancing cartoon penguins and a song about a kite and that was it. I wasn't prepared for the huge impact that the family, the nanny, and the chimney sweep would have on my parenting style and my views about childhood. Granted, I was expecting a little girl (Stella!) at the time so a casual observer could chalk my reaction up to hormones, but a more studied look would possibly (hopefully) lead to a different conclusion.
|Our Family, Summer 2003 (I think)|
Right from the beginning, I was uncomfortable with how much I related to the Mrs. Banks character and her obsession with being involved with a worthy cause. (Let it be known that I am truly grateful for the suffragettes and my right to vote since that is what Mrs. Banks was busy fighting for.) I had a church calling that was time consuming, I was waiting tables three to four nights each week, and I was also on a community council that ate up many hours of my week. All while Robert was knee deep in his 2nd and 3rd year of Medical School and was rarely (if ever) home while the children or I were awake. I was involved in several good and necessary endeavors but I was constantly pushing my family's needs closer and closer to the bottom of my "to-do" list. I felt irritated when I was finally home with a moment to myself and my sweet, amazing boys started tugging on my clothes or climbing all over me. I had been attempting to compartmentalize and schedule my time with them and as a result I was never really present with them in the moment.
So we watched Mary Poppins together and for me it was like
"Pay ATTENTION, Lizzie!"
Remember how Mr. Banks was so upset with Jane and Michael because of their behavior at the bank? Remember how Michael just wanted to give his tuppence to the bird lady but Mr. Banks was trying to impress the bankers and make him invest it? And then the children ran away and ended up on the rooftops of London and eventually all the chimney sweeps in town swooped through the Banks household and Mr. Banks got fired from his job and he became more and more infuriated but he just couldn't quite pinpoint the reason? Remember how he tried to blame Mary Poppins for all of his troubles?
"It's that Poppins woman!" He said.
"My world was calm, well-ordered, exemplary.Bert was there, dusting the mantle, and the camera settled on his face and his words and the lighting and all the Disney magic created the perfect storm for me to hug my boys and cry into their hair and breathe them in.
Then came this woman, with chaos in her wake.
And now my life's ambitions go with one fell-blow.
It's quite a bitter pill to take."
"You're a man of 'igh position.
Esteemed by your peers
And when your little tykes are cryin'
You 'aven't time to dry their tears. ...."
This is the part that I continually sing to myself, ten years later:
"....You've got to grind, grind, grind, at that grindstone.
Though childhood slips like sand through a sieve.
And all too soon they've up and grown,
And then they've flown,
And it's too late for you to give
Just that spoon full of sugar to 'elp the medicine go down."
I know it's just a movie, and a pretty cheesy one at that, but this was the first really pivotal moment in my parenting style. All at once I realized that childhood is fleeting and someday my boys wouldn't be climbing into my lap, telling me stories, craving my attention. I didn't have the luxury of being able to cut anything out of my schedule (I was getting paid for everything I was doing, except for church. Unless you count blessings) but I committed to be more present with my family. I committed to make eye contact with my babies and to really listen to them and pay close attention.
I realized that whatever I accomplish and no matter how involved in my community I get, my life's ambition is to raise my children and provide them with a home filled with love and service.
It's what I chose all those years ago and it's what I choose every day.
I'm no Mary Poppins, but since my viewing of that movie all those years ago I have strived to make their days more magical, more wonderful, and more filled with joy and play than before. When I'm distracted and they try to talk to me, I stop what I'm doing and pay attention. When I'm making dinner or cleaning house or doing homework and they want to be near me, I try to remember that childhood slips like sand through a sieve and it is a privilege to be the one who gives them that spoonful of sugar as they have to swallow the medicine inevitably prescribed by life.