After spending a frantic week travelling transatlantic for work, I was ready for the long flight back to the States. I had been in Europe meeting various press and mummy bloggers, and I left exhilarated by all the fantastic people I met, but also somewhat exhausted. The long haul flight was just what I needed - 12 hours to myself to read, reflect and just plain relax.
And then I saw several mothers who weren't necessarily going to be as lucky. I watched not with envy as they tried to tuck up their infants, toddlers and otherwise, and squirmy, impatient little ones into their seats. I took note that one by one each mum, after trying some cajoling and distraction of one sort or another, including one very crafty mum who made a hand puppet with the little bag they tuck into the seat back to help if you get air sick, decided to get their child settled down by pulling out a book and reading a story.
It struck me instantly how storytelling, no matter what the situation, wherever families are, is ingrained in our lives. And for good reason, nothing engages us and expands our imagination like a good story.
I started to think about how important it is to make time in our busy lives for stories but nowadays we can't always be there to sit with our child and have them on our lap with a good book. Luckily, there are so many other ways to give them the joy of hearing and seeing a story well told. It's why the shows we have on Disney Junior are so important to me. It's a chance to deliver this priceless experience to our children when we can't be there to deliver it ourselves.
Whether in a book or on TV, I am often struck by the power of story and its ability to not only bring children to a place they might never have dreamed of, but also by its influence on behavior and attitude. It's why we pay so much attention to role modelling in our shows. Children imitate what they see and when they see the right things - truly valuable and aspirational things - they take them to heart and make them their own. We are certainly seeing that with our newest series, Doc McStuffins. As our audience watches Doc care for her toys, modelling a kind and nurturing doctor who loves her patients, we are hearing that real kids are quickly changing their own attitudes towards doctor visits and health related issues. The other day we heard from a mum whose son, usually terrified of going to the doctor was now playing "Doc" all day long not only with his toys but also with his whole family. And she told us his latest visit to the doctor was a breeze. He even sang the "check up" song to the nurse as she escorted him into the examining room.
As my plane back to Los Angeles started its taxi down the runway, I watched as one mother snuggled in close with her two little girls. Exhausted from the travelling and responsibility, I smiled as she read them a story, and then I opened my book and dove into my own.