My daughter Millie spent the majority of yesterday studying for her 11+ exams when she returns to school after the summer holidays in just two weeks time. It’s something she’s very concerned about as she desperately wants to get into the school of her choosing which hangs purely on the outcome of her results. So to make her study session less daunting we decided to all work together at the kitchen table; her little brother Gabriele prepared for the year 2 curriculum and I took notes for my nutrition exam and caught up on work. By late afternoon I realised we’d spent the day studying together rather than laughing and playing games as children should, after a quick browse of cinema times online the new Winnie The Pooh movie Christopher Robin was listed for the evening so we dropped our pencils and set off in search of treats and tickets!
My first experience of Winnie The Pooh was my parents buying the entire VHS collection for my brother and I when we were young children, sitting in our pyjamas, eating treats and giggling over tigger bouncing people over and Pooh’s soothing voice making everything ok again. When I fell pregnant with my daughter at the age of 19 I felt drawn to the Winnie The Pooh collection of bedding, nursery decor and infant clothing in soft creams and beige with traditional hand drawn sketches, beautiful timeless and reassuring. Across the years both of my children have had Winnie The Pooh teddies, pyjamas and bedroom decor, moving from the traditional baby range to the fun and colourful preschool sets with bright bold colours and round cuddly shapes, big eyes and button noses.
I saw the advert for Disney’s modern day remake of Winnie The Pooh: Christopher Robin whilst at the cinema watching a few weeks ago and instantly it gave me goosebumps because it’s a story and character set that has been a part of my entire life. What better way to reward the children for their hard work than to share a cherished family film together. The children put on their best going out clothes, brushed their teeth, tied their shoes and merrily walked hand-in-hand to the cinema giggling with excitement as we arrived at 8:30pm for the evening showing. With the film being PG it was suitable for all of the family, my daughter being 10yrs and my son 6yrs, however the majority of cinema goers were couples or older families with the youngest child I noted at that time of night perhaps 11 or 12yrs old – clearly an earlier viewing would have been filled with young families and little ones.
We Pride Ourselves On The Maturity Of Our Children
As a result of this my children felt rather grown up and adult-like, a quality that I very much appreciate and admire in them; the ability to be well behaved and presentable in public rather than jumping about, causing a nuisance or having tantrums. I’ve always seen the behaviour of children as a direct reflection upon how they’ve been raised and I’ve always encouraged my children to be polite and considerate which they did so beautifully despite the late night special outing! We snuggled up arm in arm sinking back into our cinema seats, our drinks and snacks in our lap as the lights dropped and the film began. I glanced over at each little face, eyes pinned to the screen smiling with anticipation and my heart began to melt. It was such a special moment for us to share together.
Without wanting to give the film away or spoil the ending for those who have yet to see it, I’ll simply identify the fact that this modern remake focuses on Christopher Robin growing up from a little boy playing with Pooh and friends in the Hundred Acre Wood to a stressed out adult working hard in London to support his wife and child. The similarities I saw between the film and my own life instant caught me and I found my eyes welling with tears as I watched on with a heavy heart. A bright and cheerful Christopher Robin leaves the Hundred Acre Wood as a young boy to attend boarding school with the promise of his return, but year after year Pooh and friends search and wait for him to no avail.
There’s a scene where Pooh is walking alone past all of the places where they used to play, the bridge of Pooh sticks, the bench where they sit and the beautiful wild flower meadows as his clumsy teddybear shuffle feet along and adorable softly spoken voice bumbles whilst he mutters his musings outloud, putting me in mind of my late Nanny. When he began calling for his friends with nobody to answer his call I felt on the verge of sobbing; all that I could think of seeing him alone were the beloved phone calls and cups of tea on sunny afternoons that I would never again share with my grandmother. Those magical, playful, wonderfully loving childhood memories in her pretty garden, heartfelt generous hugs hello and goodbye and words of support, comfort, wisdom and advice forever out of reach to us all; it made me long for her as if I’d lost her all over again.
But Winnie The Pooh took it sweetly in his stride, as every gracious teddybear should “Oh dear, they must have gone somewhere. Well… if I do nothing then perhaps I’ll find the best kind of something.” Or something along those lines as equally endearing and innocent. To see Pooh and his friends as traditional teddies, not bright cartoon characters or new and exciting shiny toys it connected with me deeply as a mother, making them more tangible, more fragile and no longer immune to the ageing of life – just as we all are, past, present and future generations alike. The bright orange vision of tigger from my childhood became a white-whiskered, soft rust colour of traditional stuffing and needlework; a family heirloom that a young child would be spellbound to inherit from a great grandmother and mother. Heartfelt, meaningful, lovingly worn by too many hugs and childhood memories as opposed to the cheap and tacky-material tatt that finds its way into teddy tombolas and charity shops these days.
Unconsciously Abandoning Our Elderly Loved Ones
I couldn’t help but draw the comparison of how my childhood friends that I’d watched and read about my entire life were now ‘grown up’ in their own little way, abandoned and, dare I say, unloved and forgotten? To me it symbolised the hundreds of thousands of grandparents in nursing homes or widowed sitting in silence gazing out of a window in out-dated family homes; where the children have long since grown up and flown the nest to have children of their own and this beautiful slice of life, love and history has been preserved in a time warp of how the world used to be. The floral wallpapers, cosy rooms, old furniture and boardgames politely waiting for an outing, for a relative to visit and a china teacup to be filled once more. But sadly those moments become less and less frequent until one day they’ll never happen again no matter how hard we wish, cry or pray.
Instead we’ve busied our days with tunnel-vision for our own lives and urgencies, forgetting the priceless blessing that we have around us. We’re far too distracted by the bright lights, modern technology and mass-produced meaningless merchandise of today that everybody else has to even realise how precious, rare, organic, unique and individual everything we still have, or had, was and is… before it’s forever too late. I have kept a voicemail on my answer machine from two years ago when the children were at school and I’d gone out to the gym, my Nanny who retired to the coast when I was a baby had tried to call me but nobody was home. She’d also phoned my Mum and didn’t get an answer so presumed Mum had come over to visit me and she could talk to us both by telephoning here. Calling each of our names in turn she waited patiently for one of us to pick up the phone, talking to an empty room, unaware of the silence she was addressing as we carried on with our days. Her jolly sweet voice filled the air upon my return as I dropped all of my bags, picked up the phone and called her straight back. “Sorry Nanny, I was out. Did you manage to get hold of Mum? I haven’t seen her today.”
Just months later Nanny passed away without warning and it broke our hearts. I knew the day would eventually come but I never wanted it to. I wished I could have been with her, held her in my arms, kissed her one last time and talked about life. There is nothing more important than the life of a loved one, no chore, no job, no object on earth. Yet she lived so very far away and raising my two young children alone I was forever torn between childcare and working long hours. The weekends, holidays and special occasions when I got to see my Nanny were so few and far between but meant so much to us all, and the phonecalls every few days made the distance between us seem that little bit less until we’d see each other again. I’ve kept Nanny’s voicemail on my phone since that very day, my answer machine entirely full and unable to take messages anymore because of how precious her voice is to us, her final farewell softly calling out our names, one by one for the very last time – just like Pooh walking through the Hundred Acre Woods calling for his lost loved ones.
The film goes on to show how Christopher Robin left his friends behind to attend boarding school, gain an education and work in a stressful job making cut-backs during the war whilst supporting his family. Having a daughter he wanted the same education for her, to work hard and be successful – an ethos that is instilled by every parent to their child, you want them to do their best and have the best of life and that comes from hard work and commitment. Yet all that his daughter Madeline wanted was to stay with her parents instead of being sent away, to play games and read bedtime stories. To see a grown up, weathered Christopher Robin putting work before his family, caught up in a role of responsibility, decisions and taxes it was evident that he’d lost the childhood magic and freedom and sense of adventure that we’d known him for; life had got to him and his wife feared he would have a break down if continuously put under so much stress and hardship. His work had distanced their marriage and divided their family and he had no intention or ability to change the situation.
Being Physically & Emotionally Present In A Moment
It took me back in an instant to visiting my parents, where I gather an afternoon or weekday evening to rush over and say hello. To catch up, talk about the weather, have dinner together or watch a film that they’ve been wanting to see. Mum tells me about recipes she’s found and how the rest of the family are getting on and Dad’s usually getting excited over the latest football match he’s bet on as it’s about to start. Mum frequently tells me that I’m doing too much, that I look too tired or should get to a doctor as she checks in on my recent health checks and ongoing gut health issues. She then waits patiently as I faff about apologising as I have “just one more email” to write or an important phonecall that I really must take as I disappear for half an hour standing in my old bedroom talking about print deadlines and product plans. Although my parents have a fairly modern home I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s high-tech, they each have smart phones which they still struggle to use, accidentally delete things or need help with updates but they love being able to take pictures of the children, chat to my aunts and uncles and send and receive emails when booking a holiday – the very minimum grasp of what technology allows these days.
What I’m trying to get at here is the clear divide between how I interact with my parents today compared to my childhood before technology. Before we’d be laughing, playing and talking for hours, but now there is constant distraction, delays and other people within our phone screens who forever get in the way. We split ourselves between so many different deeds and directions that there’s never enough time to just ‘be’. And when we do finally find precious moments with loved ones sadly they’re lost and rarely recognised for how valuable they truly are because whilst we’re physically present our mind is forever elsewhere. If I had a penny for every time I said “Sorry Mum, just a second” “I just have to do this” or “I’ll be right back” then I’d be a millionaire! Instead I’ve spent that on wasting time that should have been with my parents, for moments I can never get back and memories I’ve lost out on making because I’ve been elsewhere.
We need to wake up and realise how important the present is, the here and now and the true value of our children, friends and relatives. Don’t dwell on the past, don’t stress about the future, just make your today the most beautiful space and time that it can possibly be. Be kind, have patience, listen, talk, understand, help and have fun in all that you do. Just because we’ve grown up and have children of our own doesn’t mean that we don’t still have the child that we once were still inside of us all – never be afraid to let it out, have fun and explore. We must remember how to love, reconnect and appreciate the time that we have together. Recognise that true richness in life is found in time and not money or material possessions. True beauty is in a moment that makes a memory and not in stressing over our appearance whilst we’re still young because evidently we’ll all end up aged and unrecognisable for the children and young adults that we once were. Realise how insignificant stressing over work is in the grand scheme of things, how burning ourselves out day in and day out over and over again for a job we don’t enjoy won’t bring us any further forward in life but instead keeps us from our families. Make a change and don’t work for the greed of money, work for the passion of life to bring about change, make a difference and help others – study, try something new, progress and build a life that fulfils you.
Acceptance True Happiness In Its Many Forms
The final comparison I drew from this wonderful film was Pooh bear carrying around a shiny red balloon much to the dismay of a grown and stressed out Christopher Robin who had to continually rescue him in crowds, catch the balloon before it flew off or get hit in the face by it whilst trying to pay for things. It made me want to hug my autistic son a little tighter because I realised Winnie The Pooh’s balloon was so similar to my sons mental disability – in his delightfully innocent ways, what’s important to him and what makes him happy is somewhat the opposite to the wants and needs of my daughter. Christopher Robin couldn’t understand why Pooh bear wanted a balloon that he could do absolutely nothing with when having it was so inconvenient to him, yet Pooh said he wanted it because it made him happy and hoped he might give it to Christopher’s daughter to make her just as happy in return. It was a struggle to carry a balloon through a crowded train station, busy street and navigate it safely through the trees of the garden but still Winnie The Pooh kept hold of it. Just as my son likes to carry clocks, watches, compasses and irrelevant objects around with him that would be of no interest or use to anybody else.
This teaches us to live in the moment and love unconditionally, regardless of the love and interests of others – you don’t have to be fashionable or follow the trends, just stay true to what makes you the most happiest. In a stressfully busy life my son is my Winnie The Pooh, he brings me back to the moment with his 6yr old childlike innocence, literalism and inability to disguise his true emotions. He reminds me to have fun, to laugh, sing, jump off of a tiny wall on the way to the park and have cuddles and cheeky biscuits before bedtime on rare occasions. He keeps the excitement of childhood alive in me so that I’m still able to step back from my desk, silence my phone and join in with my children rather than being totally lost to the distractions of life, stress and responsibility. The weight that I bare as a single parent raising a young family is as challenging as ever, but with a heart filled with love, adventure and gratitude it makes the process far more worth it.
Likewise my parting thought about Winnie The Pooh, from his charming mumbles, childlike happiness and ability to forgive abandonment, forget unkind words and cherish the moment we live in was to think of his love for honey. Throughout the film he dips his paws into pots and pots of sticky golden ‘hunny’ to keep his tummy from rumbling; his favourite food and edible comfort. Initially this reminded me of how my Nanny used to pour so much salt onto every meal that she ate, far more than necessary and unlike any of my relatives. Nanny’s salt was her honey and although she knew she shouldn’t have so much of it she just couldn’t resist it. But when I thought about it more deeply I realised honey, or hunny, is what we all need a little more of in life. Honey doesn’t have to be just a condiment but moreso those sweet and magical times, the endless summer days, family picnics, treats, adventures and things that make us our most happiest. It doesn’t matter what form our own honey takes, just as long as we don’t deny ourselves of it, because in hindsight if I realised the true value of moments before they were over then I’d have held onto them with both hands and never have said “goodbye” or “in a minute” so easily.
I’m incredibly thankful to be a mother, to have my two beautiful, kind and loving children bringing me back to the present when life takes me off track with unnecessary distractions. They fill my life with endless sunshine no matter the weather and warm my heart at every occasion possible. I’m incredibly thankful to have shared a fine summers evening together at the cinema with my little ones, cuddled up together, giggling and sharing a movie that embodies my own childhood whilst allowing me to also reminisce over theirs. If you’re looking for a family film to enchant, inspire and reach out to all ages then Christopher Robin is certainly the film to do so. Of everything I have seen this year, the action, adventure, CGI, lights, bells and whistles this is a movie that will undoubtedly stay with me for the rest of my life. Politely hauntingly it reminds us to wake up and start living again whilst all we’re still alive; a second change we should all take heed of.