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Everything I need to know I learned from Mary Poppins

Just because you don't have a talking umbrella and lavender shoes doesn't mean that you can't channel your inner Mary Poppins. This wise, patient, good humored, magical nanny can teach us so much about how to approach the vital role of raising children well. Read and be encouraged!

How and to what extent we lean into parenting is a key factor in how much joy our families experience as the years go by. Our attitude toward cultivating a joyful home is the secret sauce that dictates the level of joy we experience. Just like in every other endeavor, our attitude impacts success more than any other single factor. Our families will be filled with great memories, challenging memories, and, if we work with purpose, unity through all of these.

Take a moment and look inside yourself honestly. Do you enjoy being a parent? What about parenting is the most difficult for you to enjoy? Do you have more good days than bad days? What makes the good days good or the bad days bad? How would you describe parenting? Think on these things. Jot down a few notes and then read what you wrote. Ponder awhile.

What about your children? How would they describe you as a parent? Ask them. Ask them how they feel about being your child. Ask them how they think that you feel about being their parent. You might be surprised at the conversation that arises from these questions.

Embracing your inner Mary Poppins could help you alter your perspective towards children and your responsibility to them. Perhaps it could even help you find the fun in it. If you are not a fan of, or are not familiar with, the 1960s Disney movie, give the original book by P.L. Travers a quick read. You will find it in your public library. Ms. Travers was a troubled soul who, I believe, was working through a painful past by writing. Mary Poppins is the healer.

Since most of us are not capable of riding a banister up the stairs or flying via a talking umbrella, let's look exclusively at the traits of Mary Poppins that we can take on:

  1. She knows that raising children really matters. Children, your children, are important to the world exactly as they are right now. Childhood is often treated as a holding pattern for adulthood. The truth is this: Children matter right now. So do their emotions, their opinions, their talents, their thoughts. It is easy to brush aside childish ways, but Mary Poppins is actively engaged in teaching the children how to live in the world and to take a confident place within it. She embraces the process because she knows how important it really is. Embrace parenting today.

  2. She is firm and kind. It is possible to be a firm, no nonsense, well ordered parent running an organized home while being cheerful, kind, respectful, and good natured. Harsh voices, sharp tongues, critical words, badgering, bullying, and berating are counter productive in family life. Train your brain to respond to the demands of each day with positive, uplifting, encouraging words toward your children. Watch how quickly the atmosphere of your home changes. Lead with love. They will follow.

  3. She chooses to be cheerful. Cheerful people are not necessarily gifted with a cheerful countenance from birth. It is true that many cheerful people were raised in families that valued a happy outlook, or perhaps they were born with a natural bent toward cheeriness but, mostly, cheerful people are those who decided to be cheerful in spite of the challenges that life gives us all. A cheery disposition is a choice that you and I can make for our families. If you were your child, would you rather look at a grumpy face or a cheerful face? Does your countenance invite your child in for a hug or a confidence? Does your smile say to your child, "tell me about your day...what is going on in your mind?" A cheerful demeanor draws your child close.

  4. She gets it. Parents that remember what it was like to be a child make wonderful parents. Children are vulnerable and depend on us for many years. They need us to remember, understand, and respond with compassion and wisdom. If your parents were bullies, break that cycle and be kind. Remember your childhood. Lean in and learn, really learn, what makes your own child tick. Respond to what you know they need. Of course you will make mistakes, but your love will shine through them. Tune in and lean in. Be the parent who gets it. The one who understands. You then become the trusted guide and guardian. If you have navigated well the path from childhood to adulthood and your child can see that they are able to fully trust you. Be that parent.

You know that the attitude you take toward any project or task will have an enormous effect on the outcome. If you are weary or uninspired by the work of parenting, I understand. It is a long term, very demanding job. It takes creativity, intelligence, organizational skills, patience, perseverance and so much more. Love is not enough. Love is an essential first step, but love is never the only thing needed. Allow these other traits to soak down into your heart. Embrace the Mary Poppins within you. Offer this kind of love to your children.

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