5 Things We Can Learn From Mary Poppins

We just got back from Disneyland, and one of our most magical moments was Kai getting to meet Bert and Mary.  The last time we were at Disney World he had just really gotten into the movie and was able to meet Mary, but we missed Bert who is his absolute favorite. When Kai is not being a dinosaur, super hero, or jedi, he’s being a chimney sweep, and it’s the cutest. Turn on Step in Time he can perform it for you start to finish. Naturally, on the plane ride home he wanted to watch it again, and of course I won’t argue with that. Every time I watch it I feel like I learn or notice something new. People wonder why I love Mary Poppins so much, and it’s because she teaches us some pretty great things. So, here’s five things I think we can learn from Mary Poppins.

1. She never makes promises she can’t keep. 

Right out of the gate when Mary Poppins arrives, she goes upstairs, meets Jane and Michael, and they tidy up the nursery with a bit of fun and magic. Right after, Michael asks her to promise they can do that again, and she responds: “Oh that’s a pie crust promise, easily made, easily broken.”  We quote this often in our home because it’s one of the things I think, especially as parents, we can and should learn from Mary Poppins. Promises are meant to be kept. It’s extremely important to follow through-if we say we are going to do something (or not do something), then we as the adult need to stick to that. This is what builds trust in relationships. It’s simple: Don’t make promises you can’t keep. I just love the way she puts it.

2. She knows her role and stays in it. 

I know she’s a nanny, but honestly I see her more as a live-in foster mom. Let’s face it, the police have been called multiple times because Jane and Michael are somehow without supervision and lost quite often. Yes, the state of their home may be clean and tidy and “well-run” according to Mr. Banks, but there’s two parents in the home who have lost their way and need help finding their way back. She never tries to replace Jane and Michael’s parents, because that is not her role. She keeps the kids safe, she restores balance in the home, she creates a healthier environment and helps Mr. and Mrs. Banks find their way back to parenting the right way with the right priorities. The only promise she makes in the very beginning is that she will stay until “the wind changes.” And that’s exactly what she does. She makes sure Jane and Michael are safe. She makes sure Mr. and Mrs. Banks are in a healthy state. And once it is clear that the goal has been met, she moves on.

3. She never makes herself the hero. 

Because she knows her role and stays in it, she also doesn’t make herself the hero. Whether it’s going on a jolly holiday by jumping through a pavement picture or encouraging an outing between a father and his children, till the very end, she never makes it about her and how wonderful she is. That last line is my absolute favorite, as she’s lovingly looking on as the Banks family is flying kites together, knowing her work there is done, her umbrella tries to call her out. “It seems as though those children love their father more than they love you.” Her response? “That’s as it should be.” 

She was an agent of change and healing in that household. But she leaves quietly, knowing her work is done. She doesn’t make it a big production, she makes sure that Mr. and Mrs. Banks are the focus for those children, and that is as it should be. We don’t have to be the center of the story. We shouldn’t be doing things for the praise or get so upset that we don’t get all the credit. The fact of the matter is, we are simply one piece of a much bigger, much greater story we don’t have the rights to, and we should all be pointing to that Author rather than ourselves.

4. She is unwaveringly confident.

No matter how many times her methods are questioned, she remains confident in what she is doing. When asked “What is the meaning of all this?” her response is my favorite:

“Let’s make one thing quite clear: I never explain anything.” 

Boom. Mary Poppins, creator of the mic drop. Why do I love this? It’s not that I don’t believe in explanations, it’s the fact that she doesn’t waver just because someone doesn’t like it or disagrees. She knows what she’s called to, and she acts accordingly. She doesn’t find her validity in the opinions of others, which is one of the biggest things I admire about her because that is my greatest struggle. When we first started the adoption process, I was 100% confident in what we were doing because I knew what we had been called to. But by the third person who called us “crazy” I started to question if we really were! I could say the same thing about being questioned on whether or not I’m “qualified” to homeschool my child or write a book. If you are called to do something, don’t let other people sway you. If they aren’t on your front porch, they don’t have to have an explanation.

5. She’s always up for an adventure. 

Isn’t the absolute BEST thing about Mary Poppins all the adventures? No matter what, she always manages to make sure the children remain just that-children. I feel like our culture wants our children to grow up too fast, they just want them to be little adults by the time they are three years old. If your kid isn’t in preschool by the time they are two, they’re “behind.” If they can’t sit still, they are too active and too disobedient. Put them in approximately 37 activities so they are well rounded and fill their schedule to the brim, day in and day out. Make them be quiet, apologize for their presence because it “disturbs” others around them, make sure they never have a meltdown and keep it together. Nonsense, the lot of it in my opinion.

The joy of Mary Poppins is she makes sure there is fun in their day. Do they get errands and things done? Sure…but sometimes they also get thrown out because it’s way more fun to have tea parties on the ceiling. Instead of freaking out that Jane and Michael made it up the chimney, she rolls with it and they explore the city from the rooftops and see a new perspective with the chimney sweeps. In all of our doing with our kids, we must never forget the power of play. As adults, we tend to lose and forget this. I have to remind myself to have fun sometimes, so I love that not only does Mary Poppins foster this, she also engages in the fun with them.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written a blog about or inspired by Mary Poppins and it won’t be the last. There’s just so much we can take away! What’s your favorite Mary Poppins lesson?

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