Friday, October 23, 2009

Lessons Learned from Mary Poppins

Have I mentioned that we have a new family tradition?

Every Friday night we have a special dinner, followed by movie night all together. Since I turned off the TV back in June, movies have become much more special. We try to choose movies the kids haven't seen, to broaden their movie repertoire.

So far we have watched Bolt, The Secret of NIMH, Mary Poppins and Bedtime Stories.

I was startled at the profound life lessons that just dripped from every scene of Mary Poppins. Especially in light of my recent week of feeling stuck in a funk, I found encouragement and challenge for kids and parents alike.

Make the Work Fun
Mary breezes into the children's nursery and straightens it up in a snap, while singing A Spoonful of Sugar. Although I can't snap my fingers and get the books, toys and clothes to put themselves away (oh how I wish!), I do have the power to set the perspective for the kids and myself.

This week I turned kitchen cleanup into a game by offering cookies as a reward for beating the casserole timer. Amazingly, they loved it! The Captain and I also got bathrooms clean last weekend by each taking a child and walking them through printed out steps. When we were finished, we sat down and had reading time together.

Enjoy the Moment
Not too long after Mary joins the household, she receives an emergency message via a neighborhood dog. With the kids in tow, she visits Uncle Albert's house to find him in a dreadful state: he's laughing so hysterically that he is floating up by the ceiling! My kids loved this scene, how could you not laugh along while the whole gang sings I Love to Laugh while taking tea in the air!

I was reminded of the medicinal value of a light heart. Seems a long time since I have had a light heart; simple responsibility seems to weigh a lot these days, and I wouldn't even call my life complicated. But as we all laughed together, I felt a little of that weight lift. I need to laugh like that more often. Maybe one of these days you'll even find me floating by the ceiling!

Reach Out
In a more somber chapter of the story, Mary tells the children of a little old lady who sits on the steps of the cathedral, selling crumbs to Feed the Birds for tuppence a bag. The children tell their father, who had never noticed the old lady before. Through his own set of events, the father eventually realizes that such a small amount of money as two pennies can make a difference to this lady and her birds.

I tend to struggle to keep to my family budget every month. There are always more places to spend money than we have money to spend. But the truth is, we have so much. Surely gifts of even five or ten dollars, found by saving money elsewhere, could make a difference in someone's life greater than the sacrifice I would have in giving it.

Do Things Together as a Family
The movie ends on a high note, with Mary stealing away as the children and their parents Go Fly A Kite together. The mother has left her activist circle, the father has quit his job, and the children have learned to make their own fun. The credits roll and the curtain drops on a scene of familial restoration.

How can one help but leave this movie resolving to be a more involved parent, to be aware of the world beyond one's everyday bubble, and to approach every aspect of life with humor and a good attitude? These lessons validate our attempt to build a family tradition, as well as challenge me to be looking for more meaningful activities we can do together as a family.

I would love to know about your family traditions, and whether you already work together to reach out and make a difference.

Also, we are about due for our next family movie night. Do you have any favorites to suggest for us?

Have a great weekend.


  1. My favorites, tho possibly too 'old' for kids, are the Topper series: Topper, Topper Takes a Trip, and a 3rd one I can't think of. They were made in the '40's, and they're HI-larious! Check 'em out! :)

  2. I love Mary Poppins! In fact, just bought Broadway tickets to see that while in NYC in Dec. BE-AWESOME!
    May joy be your companion today. Blessings!

  3. Don't forget "Hooked," "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," "Swiss Family Robinson," 'Old Yeller' (sad ending but good for discussing loss) "Black Stallion". Loved the way you put the lessons from 'Mary Poppins' into words and applications!


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