In my early years of motherhood when I still vainly thought perfection was within reach, I was drawn to the life of Mr. Banks. You know, the British banker-father in the movie “Mary Poppins” who insists on running his home with precision. As a frustrated perfectionist, I was naturally drawn to this ideal, and my ears would perk up every time I heard the lyrics to the opening song of the movie:
I run my home precisely on schedule
At 6:01, I march through my door
My slippers, sherry, and pipe are due at 6:02
Consistent is the life I lead!
It’s 6:03 and the heirs to my dominion
Are scrubbed and tubbed and adequately fed
And so I’ll pat them on the head
And send them off to bed
Ah! Lordly is the life I lead!
A British bank is run with precision
A British home requires nothing less!
Tradition, discipline, and rules must be the tools
Without them – disorder! Chaos!
In short, we have a ghastly mess!
Hearing that song always left me with a wistful longing for a similar life of meticulousness, a life run like a well oiled machine with compartmentalized activities assigned to specific time slots, a life in which my little people followed a hard core schedule (say it like a Brit).
In my solitary world of mayhem, messes and melt downs, I would daydream about a nanny bringing in the happy and exhausted children from their daily outing (nary a whine or speck of dirt) for a dinner served at 6:00 sharp by the cook who presented us all with a piping hot (and well balanced) meal to be cleaned up (meticulously) by the housekeeper. This vision of calm, clean, orderliness (and house help) was like balm to a weary mother’s soul.
Yes, I keyed into all those little buzz words coming out of Mr. Banks tight lipped mouth: precision, tradition, consistency, discipline, rules. Of course, these are all commendable things, but I now realize they are not the most important things.
It’s interesting to me that this was the part of the movie that got my attention, not the human part where the totally self-absorbed and neurotic Mr. Banks requires disastrous events in his personal and professional life to finally bring him around to the simple idea of flying a kite with his children. (I always felt kind of sorry for Mr. Banks. He did have a wife, cook, housekeeper and nanny after all. He had every reason to believe he could carry on with his crazy brand of perfectionism!)
Yes, I was so distracted by the life of Mr. Banks in those early years that I even labeled my frustrations, “Mr. Banks Syndrome.” (After doing a search on The Power of Moms website, I realized I have a LOT of syndromes . . .) And while my MBS felt like a full-fledged illness in those early years, now it’s nothing more than a joke between me and my husband when I experience the occasional flare up. And it is during those occasional flare ups that I remember the whole point of the movie: to help poor Mr. Banks overcome his persnickety ways and learn how to just be with his children.
The story of Mr. Banks is really a story of messed up priorities. Maybe precision could be expected in the world of early 20th century British banking–maybe it was even the norm in whatever world you lived in before having children–but once there are children . . .well, children shatter precision. Not only should precision and perfection no longer be priorities, they can’t be. There is nothing more incompatible than the idea of living a life of precision and being the mother of perfectly imprecise children!
Of course, some semblance of order and structure is always needed for children to be able to function well and learn how to prepare for the real world. Take Miss Practically Perfect in Every Way herself, for example. Mary Poppins insists the nursery must be tidied before going out to play, and she enforces a bedtime for the children, but she does it all with her famous “spoonful of sugar” while making it abundantly clear that the driving force behind her insistence for a sort of “precision” is her love for the children, not for the precision itself. (And that’s what makes her Mary Poppins!)
What really knits our hearts together, brings us joy, and–ironically–allows our children to be able to hear and accept all our teaching, discipline, and rules, is flying those proverbial kites together. So as you go about cleaning up the kitchen, making sure everyone’s teeth are brushed, and doling out lectures on the value of manners today, it wouldn’t hurt to also spend some golden moments just being with your children in their element.
It’s 3:42. Precisely the right time.
Question: When was the last time you made “kite flying” with your children a priority?
Challenge: Do it today!