A symbol of love, orderliness, “practically perfect in every way”, a symbol of childhood wonder, exploration, intelligence and compassion, Mary Poppins is one of my heroes and this is not a big secret… most everyone who knows me well, knows I love this movie and want to be Mary Poppins when I “grow up”. She is wise, magical, surprising, orderly, commands attention and compliance, she is compassionate, loving, she can see the truth and she is excellent at getting people to see things her way while making them think it really was their idea. I think everyone could use a Mary Poppins from time to time… but what might life be like if we didn’t need her? You know, she only stays until the winds change… only when you NEED her does she appear- when life has taken over and too much of our hearts are taken from that which is most important. She is a symbol of home, family and the true power of the ties of family. She helps us to remember it’s not too late to love one another and to make that love our priority.
A friend and author of an amazing book called “Stop, Don’t Quit: How to Quit Smoking Without Killing Anyone” David Bradley, recently wrote an article about this book, written by Bronnie Ware called “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing.” His article and blog can be found here:
I’ve been thinking about this subject a great deal lately, as I have seen friends and family dealing with death on a very personal level in the last few months.
The 5 regrets Bronnie states in her book are:
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me”
“I wish I hadn’t worked so hard”
“I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings”
“I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends”
“I wish I had let myself be happier”
In David’s article, he challenges people to never allow these regrets to be true for them and to do whatever it takes to not be one of the unlucky ones who played it safe instead of being happy and living a fulfilled life.
I believe this is not only admirable, but absolutely necessary in our culture. We are so quick to move forward, forgetting the value of the moment. If anyone has seen the movie “Click”, you will understand when I say people in our culture want to fast-forward to the good stuff often enough that eventually life is gone, the moments are lost in time and we’ve missed so much! That film encapsulates the entire feeling of this book and wraps it up in a clever 107 minute explanation of why it’s a bad idea to deny yourself a life well lived.
As a mom, I constantly consider what is really a good use of my time. Is laundry more important than dishes right now? Is sweeping the floor more important than cleaning the bathroom? Is coloring with the kids a better use of my time than dusting the ceiling fans? Maybe… Is sitting on the couch for an hour nursing a teething toddler the best use of my day when I’m surrounded by housework? Yep. I’m pretty sure it is. The housework will still be there when the kids are happy again. Right now, the sad babies who cling to me demanding attention just want to be loved. In THIS MOMENT, they need to feel secure in that love. Not later. Not when mommy has had her other priorities managed. Babies don’t care about housework, they don’t care about fancy cars, they don’t care if you got generic or name brand cheese and they don’t care if you can’t afford cable or if you buy clothes from Ross or a fancy department store. They care about you. They care about your love and they care if they are able to hold onto you, look you in the eye and breathe a sigh of comfort, ease and peace. All the things that pull us away from their needs to feel secure and loved, because WE think they need those things, simply make them feel less secure and with that, their ACTUAL needs get pushed to the background and the bottom of a very long to-do list. They are, unfortunately, not usually the top on the list, even if the list is called “Things I’m doing for my children’s future”, a child’s base needs are often neglected because those needs are seen as selfish, demanding, manipulative and wrong. Many would love to push off and aside the love and attention craved by their children because it makes them feel guilty for not making them a priority. Many people put people- ANY people… at the bottom of their to-do lists until one day, sadly, they have to cross them off entirely because those people aren’t there anymore.
I went to a memorial/”life celebration” this weekend for an amazing woman who succumbed to cancer after a long, hard and strong fight. She was an awesome lady, loved by so many- a fiery spirit and a lover of life. There was a moment where the mic was opened up to the audience for anyone to come and speak about her or their feelings and the overwhelming outpouring of love for her was so clear, even not knowing her well, I was able to get a true and vibrant picture of her and the life she led. The one thing spoken by every single person there, above all other things were these three sentiments, “I wish we had made time”. “I wish I hadn’t gotten so wrapped up in my life and business to have drifted from this amazing person who is now gone from us.” “I never should have let us drift apart.” Everyone does this- they are not alone. We put people at the bottom of our lists nearly every time… even and sometimes especially, our own children.
As a parent, I want to share this with you and put it in a relevant perspective. Do you end your day thinking “I miss my baby” even though they’re sleeping right in the next room, or even right next to you in bed? Parents get so wrapped up in the tasks of the day that one day becomes the next and soon it’s been a week, a month, a year and we’ve put off playing, put off dress up, put off partnering on a video game or opening the box of Candy Land because we have “just a few more things to do”. What if…. you didn’t? What if you put off those other things to be the partner in your child’s adventures instead of telling them to go outside and find someone to play with? What if you didn’t say, “well, I have 4 more things to get done and THEN I can spend time with you”… what if spending time with our kids WAS the important thing and all else was secondary? What kind of amazing childhood memories can we create when we stop looking at playtime like the last thing on the list that can ONLY happen once everything else is done? We take our babies for granted because there’s always tomorrow and there is always time after dinner, or bath, or story, or “go on to bed and maybe in the morning” and before we know it, the time is gone and the moment is lost. We forget how little time there really is to love, to truly be the center of their world.
I challenge us all to do better by putting our children and their play, their education and our interaction with them at the TOP of our to-do lists instead of at the bottom.
When you are on your death bed, considering the things you wish you’d done differently… don’t let this be one of them. I think we can avoid this by creating a Life List. Different from a bucket list or a vision board, a Life List shows you the awesomeness that happens when you take the time to live in the moment. You can encourage your babies to create Life Lists as well and help them reach their goals every day.
No focus on death or “getting in as much as you can before you die” or, doing that ONE thing before you die so your life is complete. Let’s stop considering life as a check list that makes us feel better about how miserable we were and start keeping track of our accomplishments while striving to achieve more, so we never end up miserable in the first place!
Here’s an example of my Life List:
How Will I LIVE Today?
Each day, the bullets underneath change- but the list itself never does. Under “play” we might go outside, play a game, stack blocks, run around the house with space ships. Under “appreciate”, we may donate some clothing to the Goodwill, we may take photos of nature, plant a garden, spend some time loving on the pets, or writing daddy a letter about how thankful we are that he is doing his best for us. As they get older, I will have my children choose what bullets go in each section every day and we will do our best to make those things happen.
None of us wants to be sitting there one day considering all we’ve lost with time passing us by. No one really wants a life that NEEDS a Mary Poppins to come in and remind us how to slow down, take the time to love and be loved… but sometimes we need her. We need her desperately.
Be your own Mary Poppins.
Love your children, play games, go on outings, stop to step into a chalk drawing now and then. Put down the phone to go fly a kite and never be afraid to teach them outlandish vocabulary and the absolute awesomeness of imagination, but most of all… take the time to love and put aside the stuff and things that don’t matter as much as the love, hugs and fleeting embraces that come with the absolute need of a child’s heart to simply know that they can count on you to be there when they need you.
Be there. Always.
Make Mary proud.