CHENNAI: Idon’t know about you, but when I watch a movie with my kids or read a book to them that I loved as a child, I’m always watching out for their reactions to see if they find the same things funny, scary or sentimental. So this past Sunday when we all hunkered down to watch Mary Poppins, I had one eye on my kids and watched as they giggled at Bert and Uncle Albert, laughed their way up to the ceiling. I watched as their faces blanked out at the joke about the wooden leg named Smith.
And I caught the anxiety in their eyes as the wind changed direction, signalling to Mary that it was time to move on. It’s also interesting to watch a childhood favourite again as an adult.
My own hazy memories of the movie are of ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, spoonfuls of sugar and dancing penguins. And while those things are fun to watch as an adult too, it’s only now that Bert’s advice to Mr Banks struck a chord. “You’ve got to grind, grind, grind at the grindstone
Though childhood slips like sand through the sieve
All too soon they’ve up and grown and then they’ve flown
And it’s too late for you to give”.
Of course this had me blubbering away much to the bemusement of my children. ‘It’s all going to be over so soon’ I wailed. The last time I had cried a river at the movies with them was when Andy goes to college in Toy Story 3.
But…. I really wish that I could tell you I haven’t yelled at my kids since Sunday. That I wasn’t trying to douse the flames of a thermonuclear meltdown and send an email at the same time. That I could see the joy and beauty in my five-year-old’s tantrum when he screamed ‘I want choccos with milk for lunch’ or when the eight-year-old squeezed all the toothpaste and emptied half a packet of chilli powder into a bottle to make poison for his enemies. Can I have some of it too please?
I read a lot of articles about how we all need to slow down as parents. Disconnect from the gadgets and connect with our kids. How we need to appreciate these fleeting moments of childhood, because yes, one day they will be gone. I mean, it felt just like yesterday when one of the boys hid their poop under the carpet when they were being potty trained.
Bert and Mary could get away with dishing out advice because one of them could escape through the chimneys and the other had a magic umbrella to airlift her out of the terror zone that children can create. Andy’s mother must have poured herself a big tall red and said ‘One down one to go’ when Andy drove off to college in Toy Story.
I wonder if Mary Poppins and Toy Story will still be around when my kids are parents. If movies and books will still exist even. Will they watch it with their own children with new eyes and soak in what they missed out on earlier? Will they wipe away the tears and wish they had a goddamn magic umbrella themselves? Oh, to be a fly on the wall then.
(The writer is a former copywriter whose parenting philosophy is: if there’s no blood, don’t call me)