web analytics

A Time to Love . . . Life and, so, Children

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address


Mary Poppins was always my favorite record growing up. Yes, I said record. I wore grooves in it. I loved singing along with my Sister Suffragettes. It was actually my own personal spoonful of sugar (listening to the music) while I did my chores (cleaning my room). This was before VHS players, of course. And we didn’t go to the movies (good fundies that we were). So the record was all I had. I did read the original, however.

My boys were watching the DVD in the car this week. What I would have done to have TV on those long trips, let alone a recording of my fav movie I’d never even seen! When you listen to something behind your head, while you’re mindlessly driving around town, you hear it differently — deeper or something.

Disney produced the film in 1964. Julie Andrews, having just been rejected for the role of a cockney flower-girl, played the “practically perfect” witch/nanny in-between her roles of queen and nun (her role as a man would come much later). She beat out Audrey Hepburn for the Oscar for Best Actress that year too. Sweet revenge!

Mary Poppins ever-so-gently needles its audience to consider those who are most-often forgotten. Its story is really the same as The Sound of Music when you think about it. It’s talking to us parents more than entertaining our kids. Just like the show M*A*S*H was set in the Korean war so that it could really talk about Vietnam, Mary Poppins is set in 1910 so it could nudge parents about mid-century problems.

The second-wave of feminism hadn’t really begun yet, so Mrs. Banks’ tribute to her fellow suffragettes just seemed quaint back then. Norman Vincent Peale had not yet accused Dr. Spock of ruining America by his permissiveness, so that anxiety had not been named as such.

The stark class difference between Mrs. Banks and her hired help point up the fatal flaw of independence. The cook and maid endure their mistress’s middle-class eccentricities. They even dutifully harmonize along. But she ignores their working-class needs. Just like Mr. Banks ignores her.

And they all, for the most part, ignore the children. Katie Nanna can’t stand them. The cooks won’t tolerate them. And the rich bankers are nothing but irritated by them. The upper, middle, and working classes have no time for the children. Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Banks can even fathom minding their own children.

For the most part, each adult member of the Banks household is independent — each is an island. They work separately, on their own interests and within their own spheres. When they do cross into another’s “path,” the interactions are hollow, rushed, or predictable.

And the children mess up that predictability. Yes, they are disorderly and chaotic. But more than that, they are dependent. They defy isolation. They mess up independence. And while the adults mistakenly think that minding the children ruins their economy, their success, and their political activism, nurturing a child is a pretty politically radical thing to do.

Now Admiral Boom does watch over the children as they pass by. But not until filled-with-magic Mary Poppins “pops in” do the children get included. She flies in (literally) with a bottomless carpetbag, order, routine, and even a parallel universe — a community — full of silly words and two-dimensional animals. She introduces them to Bert, Uncle Albert, the Bird Woman — the lowest class of jobless vagabonds who simply enjoy life and, so, enjoy children.

That’s what’s so practically perfect about Mary Poppins. She knows what’s important. Enjoying children and communing as a family is the most radical thing we can do. The whole movie is like a “Carpe Diem” for parents.

I think we’ve lost that spirit again. We need more of that Poppins woman in 2009. The show is on Broadway right now. Conservative Evangelicals, especially, have caught some kind of hideous idea that the solitary adult work is more important, more spiritual, more rewarding than our children. We think that being independent is more valuable that being together. We insist that the parents are the center of the home and that children should serve the parents. What is wrong with us?

We are no different from the Banks! . . . Or worse.

Spit-spot! Stop! Enjoy life. Our children are life. Take some tuppence for paper and strings and get your own set of wings. . . . go fly a kite!


15 thoughts on “A Time to Love . . . Life and, so, Children

  1. You know once again I find my experience being different than this. I agree with you, don’t get me wrong. My two year old’s childishness is not an inconvenience to me- he is just being two. Now I have to admit not being perfect about remembering that when I am trying to do something and he is pulling on me or destroying something in the other room, but it is my goal.:)
    Anyway all that to say, I grew up on a home that was part of the fundamentalist movement and I always knew we were not an incovienence to my parents. They gladly stayed up into the night to discuss our concerns. My mom loved being with us and we had so many wonderful things we did as a family. School was hard for me- I was shy and quiet- but home was a safe haven for me. My parents always listened to me even when they didn’t’ agree with my conclusions. I know lots of people in circles you would still consider “conservative evangelical” and their children are loved and cared for and time is spent with them. I know I probaly shouldn’t get so defensive but I know these people and they are good if not great parents and even though I know you are discussing a movement, there are people in the movement who by default are being painted with the same brush.
    I do know there are issues- I really do. I am changing so much the older I get and coming to some different conclusions than those I was taught as a child. You know though it is b/c of my parents, who still discuss these things with me, that I have been able to draw my own conclusions.

  2. My parents were the same way, Stacy. I know that for a fact! And I still appreciate it.

    But that doesn’t negate what is said by experts in conservative Evangelicalism — Ezzo, Pearl, and Tripp. And their advice is counter to that practice.

    What I’m saying is that when you nurture your children it’s one of the most politically radical things you can do! 😀

    1. The self-poclaimed ‘experts’ should ‘never’ be given precedence over the common sense wisdom and parental love of parents for their children. But this is what these ‘crazy’ men ‘want’! They want to say they have ‘more’ authority than the parents do, and therefore more rights than the paret do, with other people’s children! and for them to tell parents what to do and how to do it, simply because ‘they’ said’ it! These false teachers need to be silenced. Because whatever comes into their crazy heads about child rearing, does not come from God, nor from mothers’ hearts, or from fathers’ hearts. These false experts need to be silenced. One way to do this is to STOP BUYING THEIR STUPID BOOKS. Why not have a book burning and call a news team over to film it put it on tv and on uTube. But by all means, put these false teachers right out of business. That’s my rant for today. love this blog. and I love Mary Poopins. You’re such a nice mommy to let your little ones see a movie, since you learned that ‘the devil’ isn’t on the DVD celuloid!

  3. I did see Mary Poppins in 1964 or 65. We weren’t fundamentalists yet. It was my favorite movie until Jungle Book. What you say about Mary and the children befriending the marginalized is very true and I never realized that. We continually challenge our congregants to find the marginalized in society, and Disney did it a long time ago.

    Thanks. I’ve just discovered what my Lent Bible Study will be: The Gospel According to Disney.

  4. I’m sure you didn’t miss the symbolism in Mrs. Bank’s suffragette ribbon being used for the children’s kite tail. 😉

    At this point in my life, it’s almost physically pit-in-the-stomach painful to hear men in the pulpit (those w/o kids and doting grandpas alike) speaking of the selfish & demanding (sin-filled?!) ways of the littlest among us. Even if they’re kind enough not to use the term “vipers,” the attitude carries all too well. Do we really wonder why our older teens and young people are leaving the church in droves??

    But perhaps I’m over-reacting because of the little 2 week old I get to snuggle with…. who looks so much like a “little bird” when he’s hungry. 🙂

    1. And I thought Jesus said, “Suffer not the Little children to come unto me!” Or did these fundy X ( stands for moronic-ignorance ) experts, rip this verse out of their Bibles! Oh, I ‘know’! They decided Jesus really didn’t ‘say’ that! Jesus must have meant ‘something else’. Like whatever the X stands for ignorance experts conveniently ‘wanted to’ believe Jesus meant. And I thought the word ‘believe’ had something to do with ‘”Trust in the words of” someone, like, DUUUHHHH Jesus’s words!; and ‘believe’ had something to do with OBEYING, like obeying Jesus, from the heart! I think we need to blame Crazy Calvin, for this dreadful doctrine of ‘total depravity.’And also blame the man for the distorted theology of Father God. Calvin’s God was a very angry God. Both Luther and Calvin were very angry at life, the Church, and Luther was ‘terrified’ of his earthly father and suffered fromm ‘scrupulosity.’ The Church hurt Calvin’s father very much,when calvin was a boy, and Calvin grew up to be a very bitter, angry man. Also ‘both men’ were very arrogant. The Word of God really talks about ‘three fold concupiscence’ in St. John’s Epistle ‘lust of the eyes, lust of the world, and the pride of life.’ The Catholics have a much better balanced concept of sin,describing man’s inherited ‘fallen condition’,as, concupiscence’, the ‘tendency to sin. Small children are not ‘sin filled’,’evil’, or ‘bad’. And before the age of reason, seven or eight, do not understand how ‘to reason’ between right or wrong. Which is why what the ignoramuses behind the Conservative Parenting Movement,the false leaders of all this dreqadful false teaching, that are ‘false prophets’ the enemy is using to ‘destroy’ the innocence of precious children’s little hearts and spirits, poison their minds, and ruin their childhood. An entre generation of children will not be able to trust or enter into normal human relationships with spouses, their own children or society. An entire generation of ‘social / psychological misfits’ is being damaged, probably beyond repair. God help us all. Let’s eclaim the ‘little people’, the precios little children, and recover them back from these ‘terrible pied pipers’!

  5. Whether what you say about Evangelicals and their kids is true as a whole or not, I don’t know. But I do have two important comments to make.

    First, we have tried to nurture our children, and we are probably very on board with where you’re going with this.

    Second, and perhaps more importantly…I LOVE Mary Poppins!!! I want to see the Broadway show really badly! Maybe I’ll start a website for people to donate to my cause to raise money so I can go. 🙂

  6. Funny you should post this. I was just thinking about this myself. My children have a CD of the Mary Poppins soundtrack but have never seen the movie. They have been asking me to fill in the holes in the plot between the songs, and we’ve gone philosophical in quite a few of our conversations.

    The other night, my youngest had a fever. He was toughing it out bravely, but I knew he was feeling awful. Whenever he would start to whimper in the night, as soon as I would enter the room, he would stop, comforted by my mere presence. We would sit and rock until he fell back asleep, and then I would tiptoe out for a while until he woke again.

    While I felt sad that he was ill, I confess I was enjoying the extra snuggle time. During those long, quiet nighttime hours I recalled being dogmatically taught in my Fundy days that the crying that stops when you enter the room is evidence of a deceitful heart, and therefore sinful. Let them cry to teach them not to lie! How utterly inhumane. I’m ashamed to admit I was taken in by this stuff with my first child.

    With a liberating change in my doctrinal stance also came a liberating change in my parenting ideals. Enthusiastically nurturing these little ones is such a beautiful picture of God’s care for us – a privilege, really, to serve Christ by just plain old enjoying our children.

  7. I was referred here by my aunt, Aunt Kay. Kay B, or Kay Bohhnahhh… hm, I don’t know how protective she is of her name on the interwebs.

    I say a hearty, capitalized Thank God for the women who fought for suffrage and sex equality so that I have a choice to either watch my children or have fun with the girls on future Friday nights. I say Hurray that we can reflect upon how our time, as women and wives, ought to be spent. Yay for free will, and all of that.

  8. While I felt sad that he was ill, I confess I was enjoying the extra snuggle time. During those long, quiet nighttime hours I recalled being dogmatically taught in my Fundy days that the crying that stops when you enter the room is evidence of a deceitful heart, and therefore sinful. Let them cry to teach them not to lie! How utterly inhumane.

    Agreed, Jen. I don’t think there are mill-stones heavy enough for those who teach that crap.

  9. I have heard that, too. My 2 year old has been sick a lot this past month and I, too, have loved the cuddle time. I love when he falls asleep on my lap as I hold him, I love rocking him and comforting him. That is my job as his mom! It is sad if people truly don’t comfort their children b/c of that teaching. I am not sure I am aware of any moms I know that do that. I suppose there could be. My friends who have also grown up fundy certainly comfort their children. Like I said earlier, I am not saying the teaching is right, just that most mom’s are still good moms. They use common sense and nurture and comfort their children.

  10. I may as well reply to this with a few tangents of random thought.
    -John the Baptist came to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers”. His advice to other authority figures (soldiers and tax collectors) involved restraint of their authority (unlike the controlling interpretation of those who use this verse today for their ends). I just thought of the similarity between the end of Mary Poppins in which her umbrella tells her how the children may prefer their parents to her, and her reply is simply, “That’s the way it should be.”
    -I need to view Mary Poppins again, as I have not seen it in ages. Like any good work of art, you get more details the second time you see it. (In addition, children’s works are better when adults can appreciate them as well.) And, yes, I loved the suffragette song. I also have the books and need to reread them as well.
    -One minor quibble on revenge. Julie Andrews did indeed get sweet revenge when she got the Oscar- but she didn’t seek said revenge. (And to put in a good word for Audrey Hepburn- she herself was perfectly happy for Julie to win the Oscar- and stated in letters that they did not award the Oscar out of revenge.)
    -Incidentally, have you read any of Julie Andrews’s own children’s works? (I am pleased to have an autograph of her, after sending her a little thank you letter (via taxi) while she was directing a play in Greenville not long ago regarding “The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles.”

Comments are closed.