Say Yes


What would parenting be like if we used the Rules of Improvisation in our interactions with our kids? I’m not suggesting this entirely. I’m just wondering.

Right now, I’m reading Amy Poehler’s book, “Yes Please.” I’ve always liked her – but didn’t know what a pivotal player she has been in the world of comedy. I didn’t know that she was a part of the Upright Citizens Brigade and that they have multiple theatres, and give classes (for $5) and trained 11,000 people last year, and, and, oh my word! No wonder she’s sleep deprived.

But in one spot, she shared the basic rules to being a great Improviser. She says you have to:

1. Listen

2. Say Yes

3. Support your partner

4. Be Specific

5. Be Honest

6. Find a game within the scene you can both play

My boys are comedians in the making, if I’d just get out of the way. They want to tell funny stories and get a reaction, and shock their listeners, and be hysterical. They want all that. Sometimes, they act like crazy people and embarrass me and I want them to stop, because I’m afraid they are making me look like a terrible parent, and I endeavor to shut them down or calm them down or stem the tide somehow of all the words pouring out of their mouths at high decibels.

They each had a friend over this last weekend, and one of the boys’ moms hung out with me in the kitchen and drank tea as we began the process of getting to know each other since our kids are friends. When it was time to feed all the little hooligans a snack, my boys were cavorting and theatrical and it literally felt like I needed to apologize that we don’t get out much, and all of a sudden, they had an audience, and all hell was breaking loose. They were fine. The other mom wasn’t horrified, but I found myself wanting to tell them to Shhh, and tone it down, and eat their food and be quiet. I wasn’t coming all the way out and saying that, but my hands were making little gestures, and wishing they would behave more respectably.

It’s just that they WERE behaving exactly like a seven-year old and a ten-year old amped up because they have friends over would act.

So, I’m listening to this book on Audible, and when Amy Poehler gave the rules of Improv, something inside me jumped up and shouted and waved my hand in the air, and asked, “Can I do that as a Parent?” Can I just Listen and Say Yes and Support my Partners (kids) and Be Specific and Honest and Find a Game within the Scene we can all Play? Can I do all that and have more fun, and stop shutting down their creativity because they get loud? What would it look like if I stopped trying to control everything and be in charge so much? I mean, I’m a parent, so I have to be a little In Charge. I have to provide some structure, balance, food and direction – but couldn’t I grow as a person by allowing more Creative Play into our world, and spend less time trying to micro-manage them?

When I have these thoughts, part of me is concerned that I know so little about my job as a parent. Part of me is always fretting that I should be so much better at this, should know more, should be more confident in my decisions. Other people half my age, with younger children, are writing Parenting Books like they’ve got it all together. That boggles my mind. My kids keep changing and growing every single day, and it doesn’t feel possible to keep up with them, let alone be a step ahead of them laying foundations for them and guiding them responsibly. No. I’m a flailing along and spluttering type of uncool mom, just trying every day to be somehow better at this.

I like the idea of trying some Improv Rules while Parenting. I looked that phrase up on Google to see if there are any books on the topic, any other moms experimenting with this, and Google didn’t find a single thing. Perhaps this is a bad idea. Perhaps it’s a fantastic idea, and I’m just the first one to have it. I feel like I should take a little bow.

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