Mary Poppins: great human

An ape can pick up a lot of bad habits during infancy. That’s why we hairy apes have a minimalist approach to nurturing our young. We cuddle them, protect them and feed them, in the hope that they will grow up to become cuddlers, protectors and feeders. Human parents, of course, have far greater ambitions for their offspring. But in striving to mould their young they tend to make the most frightful blunders, causing the little scamps to grow up with a variety of vexatious foibles. So the job is often contracted out to a qualified nanny, who supposedly knows the ropes in the child-rearing field.

Now employing a nanny is no guarantee that your children will turn out alright. If she spoils them, they’ll grow up believing the sun shines out of their smooth little bottoms. And if she’s too stern with the boys, they’ll turn into the sort of men who make up the clientele of Zelda the Warrior Queen or Miss Whiplash. Rearing human infants is a highly subtle art, which is why the first-rate nanny is as rare as an anorexic hippo. And the one nanny who stands out as a giant in the field – practically perfect in every way, one might say – is Miss Mary Poppins.

The essence of the Poppins genius is the manner in which she exercises authority. Needless to say, she knows what’s best for the children entrusted to her care. But in getting them to do what they must, she never scolds them or gets into a battle of wills. Instead, she is a master of what Bruce Lee, the karate-chopping Chinaman, called “the art of fighting without fighting”. When the kiddies make a fuss, she will perplex them with a clever rhyme, possibly followed by a little song, which invariably beguiles the little imps into obedience. On rare occasions magic is employed as a shock and awe tactic. The result is that her charges are contented and well-behaved without recourse to the hairbrush on the backside or the pinch on the ear lobe.

The other key ingredient of the Poppins phenomenon is a quality noted by Moshe Dayan, the great Hebrew warrior – she never orders her troops into battle, she always leads them into battle. When the children take their medicine, she takes it too. She doesn’t have to tell them to be polite to Bert, the bizarre mock-cockney chimneysweep, because they follow her example. And when the children jump magically into cartoon-land, she leads the way, playing a full role in the subsequent merry-making rather than hanging back and chatting with the other nannies.

Being a woman of excellence, Mary Poppins is bound to have a few resentful detractors. They might ask, rhetorically, why a woman who loves children so much doesn’t have her own, hinting crudely at a same-sex preference. The answer, of course, is that she probably did have plans to raise her own family. She was certainly young enough to bear children and charming enough to attract many suitors. The main problem, I fear, would be finding a man worthy of her – one who could adore her body without fearing the power of her mind. Is there such a man?

To my male human readers I issue the following challenge: Would you be man enough to woo a Mary Poppins, to wine her, and dine her, and pleasure her where it pleases her?
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