somewhere between Mary Poppins and Mrs Doubtfire

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I spend quite a bit of time with children.  Of course when I was teaching dance I spent more time than now. Even now between children’s ministries in my local church or district events or at the Tribute Center, I have at least a “weekly dose” of children. But that is different that spending 24/7.This past week I have been helping to care for my 3 grand-nieces and 1 grand-nephew all under the age of 6.  And I have been reminded of things I forgotten about life with little kids. I had forgotten how long bath time, bedtime and getting in the car can take.

I had forgotten that little kids have no sense of personal space. Years ago I went to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. They had this very interesting display of footprints showing how in different cultures people stand different distances apart. The display explained where it is culturally correct to stand. I was reminded of that display this week as I was saying “could you move back a little”, “please don’t stand on my feet”, “you are too close to me”.  Of course the plus side to that is a 3-year-old crawling into your lap and giving you a hug. Or a 2-year-old saying they want to sit next to you at the dinner table.

I had forgotten that little kids wear more clothes in one day than grown ups wear in a week.  Not because they have gotten dirty but because they change their clothes constantly.  This may be just a girl thing.  I remember my girls doing this especially if they were playing dress up. This week we had daily “fashion shows”  complete with music and many wardrobe changes. Also sizing of children’s clothing is weird.  How can one child wear – 24 months, 2T and 3T.  It makes sorting laundry tricky for visiting aunts.

I had forgotten that little kids “lie”. Bill Cosby has a great bit about this. You can probably find it on YouTube. Anyway I love how they look you in the face and say what they want to hear. Then when you call them on it, they play the “my mom or my dad said” card.  Which is just their way of trying to pull rank on you. I usually counter with “okay, I will just go ask them”. Wow, I am no fun.

On Sunday, I joined my niece and her 4 kids at a Bar be que for her MOPS (mother of preschoolers) group.  I was the oldest person there by at least 20 years. Anyway this 4-year-old boy is climbing on the backyard fort/jungle gym and is starting to climb on the top (where kids aren’t suppose to go). I comment to him that maybe that isn’t a good idea and he looks me straight in the face and says “my dad says I can”. So I respond “really maybe you should go confirm that with him.” – he didn’t appreciate that comment.

At this same party, there was supposed to be a kiddie pool. Since we weren’t sure how the pool thing was going to work, I brought my swimsuit since my niece just had a baby and can’t go in a pool.  My thought was I can put my suit on with my coverup, sit on the side and watch my 3 grand-nieces. Surprise, it is a 4 foot deep above ground pool. There are kids everywhere but no parents in the pool. There is no way the grand-nieces can swim unless Aunt Ann goes in. So I put on my suit and went in. Of course an above ground pool means going up the little ladder, turning around at the top and getting in. Thankfully the water was warm and only 2 out of 3 grand nieces wanted to go in. I was the oldest adult there and the only one in a swimsuit and in the pool.  I felt like I was perceived as somewhere between Mary Poppins and Mrs Doubtfire. I will admit that a couple of the moms asked if I wanted to come and watch their kids for a few days. I can’t believe the situations I get myself into.

This past week has been terrific. I have snuggled with a newborn, sat next to a 2-year-old at every meal, been delighted to hear a 3-year-old sing VBS songs and taught an almost 6-year-old to play War. I have chuckled under my breath, exchanged “knowing” looks with my niece and felt totally blessed to spend time in Minnesota with family. I have also been reminded of an essay that was poplar in the early 90’s.  I have included it for you. Enjoy!!

All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten

by Robert Fulghum – an excerpt from the book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten. ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living. Take any of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had a basic policy to always put thing back where they found them and to clean up their own mess. And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

© Robert Fulghum, 1990. Found in Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten, Villard Books: New York, 1990, page 6-7.

2 thoughts on “somewhere between Mary Poppins and Mrs Doubtfire

  1. LOVE this post Ann. You have exposed your great writing ability. This especially reminded me of the times you and the girls came to our old house and they swam with Cal and Marc. Isn’t it funny though, how when we get older, so often the need for that “personal space” grows? For me now, with adults it is certainly arms length. Unless like with kids, its time for a hug 🙂

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