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Let's Go Fly a Kite with Our Kids

Why Mary Poppins should be required viewing for all familes

I’ve been thinking about bringing Joey to a Broadway show. Well, I think it’s high time she start her phase of dreaming about being a Broadway star. This way, she’ll get it out of her system before she’s actually old enough to do anything about it.  Maybe.

Looking at Broadway’s current family offerings has left me pondering Mary Poppins.  I liked the move when I was a kid. What kid wouldn’t dig a movie with a carousel that comes to life?  But I’ve been thinking, Mary Poppins is so much more than a children’s movie. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Mary Poppins should be required viewing for all parents.

Consider the state of the Banks family at the onset of the story. We have two kids being shuffled around among various activities and caregivers, who are acting out to the point that their nanny can’t take it any more and leaves in a flurry of British exclamations.  We’ve got two parents who are consumed by their own very important worlds; jobs, volunteer work, social commitments, Facebook updates, Twitter feeds, emails.

Oh, did I just project myself in there?  Or does that sound familiar to everyone else, too?

I don’t know what your normal day looks like, but mine involves lots of driving, sitting in front of a computer, cooking, cleaning, trying to maintain some semblance of a social life, and attempting to hit the gym so as not to turn into Jabba the Hut.  Trying to balance out all that driving and sitting in front of the computer with some physical activity, you know.

My husband gets up at the crack of dawn and heads to work. He gets home at the crack of twilight.  And he’s tired. That real, deep, bone-groaning tired you get when you work for 12 hours a day on 6 hours of sleep.

My kids have play dates, dance class, tae kwon do, afternoons at the zoo with their grandparents. 

What I’m trying to say is, we’re all running. All the time.  And when we’re not running, we’re either exhausted, or otherwise engaged.  I am, probably, the worst offender. Working from home means my work is always right there, just waiting for me to pick it up.  I instituted a “no toys at the dinner table” rule when Joey got a DS, but no one makes me put the laptop away when I have a deadline and am working through dinner, myself.

Smartphones, like the Droid that I recently had surgically implanted in the palm of my hand, makes it much easier to stay digitally connected to the entire planet.  But it makes it a bit harder to stay connected to the kids that are watching TV in the next room.

I recently read The Five Love Languages, which has been recommended by several good friends and not a few complete strangers.  One of the concepts discussed in the book is the gift of presence; really being with the people you are with.  Focusing on your spouse over dinner, instead of checking your email between courses.  Engaging in a game of hide and go seek with your kids and not shooting off a quick text message before you go find them. Or, how about turning off the TV and playing a board game with the entire family, instead of everyone getting lost in another sitcom?

Never before in our history have we been so well connected, yet so isolated.  And I propose that what we need is a “spoonful of sugar,” a good dose of Mary Poppins’ logic.

Mary didn’t come to the Banks house and SuperNanny those kids into shape so mom and dad could go about their business.  Mary showed the Banks family that what the kids really needed, what the entire family really needed, was the gift of each others’ presence. Time together, doing something so silly and whimsical as flying kites.

Mr. Banks was beyond resistant. He had an important job at the bank, after all!  Who would crunch those numbers? Who would manage those accounts? Surely, if he took an afternoon to fly kites with his children, the earth would spin off its axis. The very universe would crumble!

And yet, Mary Poppins reminds us that the number crunching, the accounts, even the universe itself, is not as important as the time we spend with our children.  The end of the movie finds the Banks children, happy, well adjusted, causing absolutely no more trouble, as they fly a kite with their parents.  And, I daresay, their parents seem a great deal happier at that point, as well.

I’m giving you homework.  Get your hands on a copy of Mary Poppins and watch it with your kids. Then ask them what their “kite” is. Find out what they want to do with you.  And the next time you’re feeling the push of the outside world separating you from the people that matter the most in your life, go fly their kite.

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