A Spoonful of Sugar

Are the Sherman Brothers real, mummy?’ / ‘Do they live on our planet, mummy?’ / ‘Do they live on our road?‘ (….because if they lived on our planet, why wouldn’t they live on our road, after all?)

I know quite a lot about the Sherman brothers these days. If you’re wondering who they are and why the obsession with them……well they wrote the soundtrack to Mary Poppins. Yes they did; along with countless other films. And we are very much in a Mary Poppins phase. If, like us, you are lucky enough to own the Mary Poppins soundtrack and if, like us, you listen to it on repeat in the car, then you will know that at the end of the CD there is an interview with the Sherman brothers – yes, we love listening to this too. If you want to know how the song A Spoonful of Sugar came about, just ask us.

Our Mary Poppins obsession has been going on since the beginning of this year and shows no sign of waning. You might think I’d be over it by now but the thing is, well I actually quite like it. It can continue for a while longer as far as I’m concerned. I mean firstly, the songs – they are just so good, aren’t they? Who wouldn’t want to hear a little boy singing Sister Suffragettes with gusto as he goes about his day? Equally joyous is seeing your children attempting to recreate the whole Step in Time dance routine. And I challenge you to try singing along to Let’s Go Fly a Kite without raising a smile….I’m not sure it is possible – it must be one of the most uplifting songs ever written.

It has never been particularly easy to get my three boys to sit down and watch a film together, but Mary Poppins is one of the few films that manages to keep them all gripped. It might be old, and it might not be as flashy as today’s children’s offerings; but I think this might actually be a big part of the reason why we like it so much. I know it makes me sound about 83 but…..well they just don’t make films like Mary Poppins anymore. So many children’s films now seem to be so complicated. I am the first to admit that following a complex plot is not one of my strengths, but if I can’t follow what’s happening in a film then what hope do my four year olds have? Often there are too many characters, everything is moving too fast, the whole thing is too loud, I struggle to understand what anyone is saying; and plots are long and convoluted.

Yes I know, I really do sound about 83. But there is something very comforting and reassuring about Mary Poppins. Yes, there are parts of the plot which might go over the heads of very small children – Mrs Banks the suffragette, for example. But the gist of what’s happening – a flying nanny with a bottomless bag who takes two children on magical adventures in London, and a father who, in the end, fixes a broken kite – well, we can all understand that.

Yes, I know it’s all very saccharine and Julie Andrews actually sings about spoonfuls of sugar, but isn’t the message of that song actually quite a good one for children? Not taken literally, obviously. But isn’t it saying that if we try to make everyday jobs fun then they will be easier to carry out? And isn’t that what we all try and encourage our children to do if we want to encourage them to get on with something? When their little legs get tired on a long walk, or when they don’t want to tidy their room, or when they’re bored sitting in a traffic jam? Try singing a song as you walk……Or making a race out of tidying up to see who can be quickest……Or playing I Spy to help pass the time.

So in these uncertain times when the country frequently feels like it’s falling apart, I’ll happily take a spoonful of sugar. In these days of special effects and flashy superheroes, I’ll take dozens of chimney sweeps stepping in time. I’ll even take Bert’s ridiculous accent. Films these days may be ritzier and louder and flashier. They might have more impressive special effects. But when you’re 4 and 6, nothing can beat those magical opening and closing drawers in Mary Poppins.

Sometimes, less is more. There’s a lot to be said for a plot you can understand. For catchy songs. For dancing on roof-tops. And for Mary Poppins soaring over London with her magical umbrella.

We love you, Mary. You can stay a while longer.

Mary Poppins

Snapshot of a boy

You skipped out of school one day last week with yet another graze on your grubby little face. And as I examined your latest injury, I realised that I have never written a post just for you. I have written about you and your brothers. I have written about you and your twin. But you, my second born boy, my first born twin;  don’t have a post all of your own (neither does Twin 2 by the way).

I decided to put that right. And yes, Twin 2 – you will get one too.

Currently, Twin 1, you look very much like you’ve been in a pub brawl. You spend your days flinging yourself about with joyful abandon, until you topple over once again….. and then you put the same amount of energy into your sobs as you had put into your running, skipping and leaping just seconds previously.  Your speciality injury has always been falling flat on your face and cutting your lip, so we are used to the pub brawl look by now. And on top of the cuts, grazes and bruises, your little face is always grubby, whatever the activity.

You long for the day when you are old enough to have a skateboard – this has been your dream since the age of 2, when you came across a display of skateboards at a service station and were desperate to dismantle the display and have a go. You watch the youngsters at the skatepark with longing in your eyes. You dream of kneepads and elbow pads and flying up and down those ramps with the wind in your hair.

When you’re a proper grown up, you want to be Bert from Mary Poppins, dancing on the rooftops with all your pals. In your 4 year old mind, being a chimney sweep would enable you to have a grubby face all the time, no questions asked. It makes me happy that your actual dream in life is to be Bert…. and your joyful rendition of ‘Step in Time’ is one of the best things I have ever seen.

If your career as a chimney sweep doesn’t work out, you plan to travel the world with your big brother and be an official ‘potato tester’. When it comes to eating, you apply the following simple rule:

green and looking anything like a vegetable = bad

potatoes = good

One of your favourite games is to walk around on all fours pretending to be a dog, with your twin brother as your owner. There has always been something very puppy-like about you so this new favourite game seems apt. You need a good run-around every day, and to see you run free in open space is a joy. You are keen, eager, and your face swells with pride when you are praised. You have huge brown eyes and amazing long lashes – you know this, and attempt to use both to your advantage. You hate to miss out, or to be outdone – if your twin tells me I look ‘pretty’, you try to go one better by telling me I look ‘beautiful’.

Right now, school is about sand, water, role-play and building bricks. Soon this will change, and I worry about how you’ll cope. How ridiculous that I’m worrying about your ability to cope with school when you’re not yet 5, but I know what Year 1 is these days and I’m not sure that it is you. I don’t share these worries with you, of course I don’t. But the thought of your joy and energy being contained as you push your little brain to understand things which, right now are totally beyond you….well that makes me want to weep. Having said that, the reading and writing side of school is starting to click and your reading books are, although still painful, not quite such a battle to get through as they were a couple of months ago (when you would sound out ‘p-i-g’ and put it together to make ‘goat’)….. Although I am confident you would find your reading books less challenging if you weren’t attempting to read them while standing on your head.

Your emotions bubble close to the surface; and when you need mummy, you really do need mummy. Your world crumples and those huge eyes fill with tears. When you’re feeling tired and cuddly, you like me to wrap you in your hooded bath towel like a baby and sing. Two songs in particular – He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands, and Rock-a-bye-Baby. Yes, I am going to remind you of this when you’re 15.

When things are really really bad, for example when mummy breaks the news that we’re turning off Paw Patrol, you put your hand over your mouth as you sob – like you’ve just experienced the biggest and worst shock imaginable.

If anyone is up in the night, it is most likely to be you: you can’t find one of your special cuddlies; your duvet has ‘done something’…..which means it is not quite straight. I try to tell you that the reason your duvet is not straight is because you have just turned it back to get out of bed. As a toddler you used to get up and clamber into bed with us. You need people and have never liked being on your own. Although seemingly more outgoing than your twin, you are more confident when you have him by your side.

You love fancy dress, you love wearing your bow-tie and you take a hankie to school every day. You say ‘wewy’ for ‘very’, ‘incept’ for ‘except’; and ‘ownly’ for ‘lonely’.

This is a little snapshot of you, my grubby-faced boy, at 4 years and 7 months – an energetic, joyful, sensitive, loyal, sometimes shy, sometimes outgoing bundle of fun who dreams of dancing on rooftops ….preferably with a skateboard.

wannabe skateboarder