As a man, a grown-up, a father, and a professional, the following is difficult to admit, but it’s time to come clean. Okay, here goes: There’s something wonderful about Winnie The Pooh — the loveable overstuffed bear with the mild eating disorder— and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood.
Like most guys, I enjoy all kinds of sports: football, baseball, hockey, golf. As a kid, I dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player and seeing the 67 Red Sox win the World Series (I had to wait awhile for the Sox to make good on that one). In other words, I’m a typical American male (though I can safely say I’ve never smashed a beer can on my forehead).
I grew up watching the classic 1960s Winnie the Pooh shorts at the Plainville Drive-in theater. Back then, most American kids were unfamiliar with Pooh and the original A.A. Milne stories. That all changed with the release of the three Pooh short films. Soon thereafter, that “silly old bear” and his friends Christopher Robin, Tigger, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga, Roo and Piglet became household names..
I loved the Pooh stories as a kid, but then I grew older. I became distracted by toys with hard edges, like Legos, cars and dinosaurs. I gravitated toward loud things, interactive and action-oriented toys, and the idea of “blowing up bad guys.” I became a teenager, became a man, became a husband and father. Having the typical testosterone-induced short attention span, I forgot about Winnie the Pooh for years and years.
But I’m older now, and maybe it’s because I am the father of two girls, but these days, I find myself considering the value of simplicity. I see beauty in the seemingly mundane play patterns of children. In an almost meditative way, I get lost in watching my daughters play with dolls or trucks or Legos. I remember those times when I was young, when my imagination ruled my thoughts, and took me to places far more beautiful than traffic on the highway and work and errands and bills. In the shadows of my memory, there remains a deep connection to that time in my childhood.
Recently, I was watching Pooh with my daughter, and it dawned on me (or had I known it all along?): The seemingly simplistic storylines of the “Winnie The Pooh” tales mirror our world and the many challenges we face as humans. From the grumpy old Rabbit to the neurotically shy Piglet, to the ever-bouncing Tigger — these characters mirror the social dynamics we face every day — from our earliest days in preschool, to the day we interview for our first job.
In other words, they’re representative of the many sides of… all of us.
When we wander into the Hundred Acre Wood — either through watching a movie or reading a book — we’re being given a passport back to the world we inhabited as children. The Hundred Acre Wood, after all, was just… woods — the woods behind Christopher Robin’s house, filled with the projections of his imaginations.
When I became a teenager, I experienced a certain sadness in leaving those imaginary worlds behind. The world of my childhood was where I created armies, battled fierce enemies and captured the castle. It was a world free of computers, phones and technological distractions: a world where anything was possible.
As a parent, it’s nice to be reminded that, like Christopher Robin, this is how our children see the world. Whether it’s in the countryside, a small town or a city, children everywhere believe that inside every tree, real or imagined, there’s the potential to find a hidden pot of honey. In our children’s own Hundred Acre Woods, the joys of bouncing and playing, being with friends — and having fun — are all that really matter.