Monday, August 24, 2015

What Can Mary Poppins Teach Nannies Today?

Adele Bruce Smith channels Mary Poppins
- photo by Justin Redman

Former Nanny Says Poppins' Still the Master

by Don Redman

Adele Bruce Smith knew from the start what she wanted to do before she attended college – she wanted to be a professional nanny.

“I remember when all my friends were worried about what classes to take in college and I was wondering why they didn’t know what to take,” says Adele, her English accent softened by years in the U.S. “I went to college and told them to just sign me up for whatever classes I need to be a professional nanny. It was that simple.”

Yes, she went to college – the University of Cambridge – to be a nanny. There is a difference between a babysitter and an au pair and a nanny, she explains. “A nanny goes to school to specifically learn how to emotionally, mentally and physically raise children. So I went to school and took psychology and sociology, child development and nutrition and more.”

The educational background set her on the path of a fulfilling career as a nanny. “I was a professional English Nanny for over 25 years and I worked for the rich and famous, raising their children,” says Adele, who today is married to Slidell Chief of Police Randy Smith.

Her first job as a professional nanny began with a referral from a friend of the family who encouraged Adele to apply for a position with a couple expecting the arrival of their first child.

“I had 25 pounds in my bank account,” Adele says. “I remember it like it was yesterday – going to the bank taking it all out and heading to Cambridge to invest in a suit.” She eyed an outfit reminiscent of something Lady Diana would wear and plunked down everything she owned to purchase it. First impressions are everything.

“The suit worked,” she says. “I was hired immediately that day in November even though Tim (the baby) was not due until January. I was given a chauffeur to take me to London to purchase everything needed for (him).”

Adele Smith: "Being a Nanny was a passion and a love"
Baby Tim was born into a well-heeled family with connections to the Royal family and well-staffed with a nanny, chef, chauffeur, gardeners and maids. But, says Smith, financial success matters not to a child. “Children all need and deserve everything that will not cost a penny – your time and effort.”

“I spent every waking moment nurturing loving and teaching this little man,” Adele recalls. “I walked him for hours in his pushchair (stroller), singing to him, talking to him, pointing out trees and flowers and bunnies and horses. Every second mattered. Tim is nearly 30 and to this day still calls me Nan.”

She sees some similarities between herself and Mary Poppins when dealing with the children. “I was always happy and I sang and played music all the time. Every second of the day I was fully aware of what I said to my charges (babies).”

“Raising Tim and his sister Polly, and the other children wasn’t a job,” she says.  “It was a passion and a love I can’t explain. It was a privilege and an honor. It was exciting and exhausting and eye opening.”

Participating in a lighthearted, Poppins-themed photo shoot in advance of Slidell Little Theatre's Season opener, Adele says she's eager to see her beloved nanny onstage this month and for the opportunity to sing along with all of her favorite songs.

Slidell Little Theatre's regional premiere of "Mary Poppins" opens August 28 and runs through September 13, 2015. Reservations can be made online at

Eager to share lessons she has learned during her 25-year career as a professional nanny – nuggets of wisdom that no doubt could be uttered by Mary Poppins – Adele offers these insightful tips for the new family:

·         Children come into this world like a blank canvas, make sure you make yours beautiful.
·         Children learn more by what they live than by your words (lead by example).
·         Be consistent with you rules and routines, Children actually feel safer and secure if you follow through.
·         It is your job as a parent to prepare your child for the next stage in life.
·         Eat together as a family at least three times a week – no TV or phones. Being a parent is not a popularity contest.
·         Read every night with them (trust me they will remember it).
·         Do not buy them everything they want or what their friends immediately. Teach them the value of money and patience.
·         Do NOT burden them with adult issues (you don’t want them to have to recover from their child hood).
·         Let them have down time. Don’t sign them up for lot of after school activities – they are learning all the time. Allow their bodies and minds to rest.

When Don Redman isn't  volunteering with Slidell Little Theatre, he writes for a travel magazine and is currently writing a comedy as well as a novel. Find out more about him here.

Justin Redman is SLT's chairman of Publicity. When he's not volunteering for Slidell Little Theatre, he's running Redman Media Productions.

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