Sometimes I have to remind my kids I’m not Mary Poppins.
I’d like to say I don’t know when it started, but I do. It started a decade ago when my eldest was a toddler barely wobbling around on fat, michelin man legs in her new little knock-off Robeez. I learned quickly how loudly she could cry when she didn’t have a drink handy or a snack at promptly mid-morning o’clock on the dot.
I remember the day a few years ago my kids asked for drinks and I pulled out three separate cups/waterbottles from my purse and handed them back to the back seat of the car. My husband just stared at me and said, “What else do you have in that bag? A lamp?”
That’s when it dawned on me. In all my preparedness with drinks and snacks and a flip-up potty chair in the trunk (for the love…) I was creating three little monsters. I’m pretty sure that was the last day I carried sippy cups in my purse for children over the age of two.
Several times post mommy’s bag o’ fun, the kids complained when they were thirsty and I didn’t bring anything for them to drink. My response, “If you want a drink, bring one.” They caught on quickly.
Late last spring, my Mary Poppins ways came out in new light when one of the kids was having friendship issues. She was crying and confiding in me that things weren’t going well. I tried to console her, telling her I knew it was hard, and asking about the ins and outs of the misunderstanding. But she just wouldn’t let up. I finally got frustrated (the story of my life, eh?) and said, “What do you want me to do about it?”
“I want you to fix it,” she said rather pointedly.
Hmmmm! Right. Fix it. Of course, because mom always fixes everything. And that’s when it dawned on me that although she’d given up sippy cups and snacks of goldfish, she still viewed me as the mom who pulls things out of a hat and fixes things.
I looked at her softly and said, “Honey, I can’t fix it. It’s not my job to fix it. I’m happy to walk along side you, to talk it out with you, and help you brainstorm different ideas, but I can’t fix it. YOU have to fix it. And sometimes that means apologizing or letting go of expectations, but YOU are the one in the friendship. It’s your life. Not mine.”
It took her a few minutes of back and forth questioning before it finally clicked for her that she is responsible for her own friendships and her own happiness. It took a mental shift from looking to me to solve things to realizing with empowerment that she was the one controlling the reins.
I’m sure there are other areas that will pop up time goes on and I undo all the expectations of providing a spoonful of sugar for every mishap. We will work on them one at a time, as we are able.
As I let go of the idea that I must be Mary Poppins, my children are able to better take responsibility for their own emotional wellbeing. And that, surprisingly, is something that makes everyone happier.
Have you become Mary Poppins to any of your family members?
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Great analogy in this post. I think we love our kids so much that we want their world to be “practically perfect” (yes, from the Broadway musical). The better thing is of course to help them learn to do for themselves. I admit that my Mary Poppins approach is more likely to come out with my older child, and then I realize that this is not the best approach, so #2 has to do more for herself. 🙂
But FYI – my older child is also my child with a special heart and asthma, and although he is stable and in good health for now, I have been in the role of doing more for him since he was born – I know you understand this. Blessings to you this summer!!!!
But … you ARE Mary Poppins (in a good way) — you are teaching your kids to be independent and take care of themselves, and figure things out for themselves … that’s what Mary Poppins did really – teach the family to work together. 🙂
Loved this post! M.
I had a similar conversation with my kids the other day. I told them,”I am not your god. I can’t satisfy all the needs and longings you have. (Nor should I) and you are not my god. It’s not my job to serve you all day long and work hard to appease you etc.” Its like an ah-ha moment. I realized that both me and the kids were expecting that I would be able to meet all their needs all the time. It stressed me out to be trying to fix everything all the time because I couldn’t but I kept trying foolishly – without really stopping to realize the futility of it.
So good and so true! Have you ever read “Bringing Up Bebe,” a book about how French people parent their kids? So interesting (and life changing for me) and a big portion was about how they don’t do snacking and kids just know what times they eat meals and there’s no whining about food. Anyway…great post!
I haven’t read that book… I’ll check it out. Thanks, Sarah.