Parents of tweens and teens improvise regularly, and with Covid-19 impacting life in a myriad of ways and the situation continually evolving, it’s clear that we are all going to be doing some (or a lot of) improv at some point in the near future. These unprecedented times have me thinking back on the lessons I learned on the improve stage and how that impacted my parenting perspective.
A deep breath can be a huge help
Uncharted territory is scary.
I had no improv experience whatsoever – none, nada, nothing – and I was nervous and fearing the unknown.
As my heart started racing, I took a deep breath.
And I felt a little better.
Another one, and my heart stopped racing quite so fast. Not normal, mind you, but let’s not be picky.
When fears associated with the pandemic start to creep in, I find that, once again, taking a deep breath can help, especially when it’s followed by another, and then yet another.
Know what matters
I met Blue Team captain Stacey Smith a few minutes before the start of the show. She’s as hilarious in person as she is on stage, and beautiful, and I’d like to be her when I grow up. Surprisingly, she made the greatest impact on me when she looked me square in the eyes and said, “It doesn’t matter” with a fair amount of seriousness.
It’s all about perspective, and knowing what’s important. Keeping people safe, promoting healthy habits, supporting those in need – those things matter.
I was worried about improv games and making a fool of myself, but she reminded me that it doesn’t matter if you get “out.” Don’t know what to do? It doesn’t matter. Worried about losing? Don’t be! It doesn’t matter! Also, it doesn’t matter if you do something totally silly or even make a complete fool of yourself.
It made me realize that I place a lot of importance on and devote an inordinate amount of mental energy to things that don’t matter.
As parents, it feels like all the things matter, all the times. And there are some big things that really do matter, especially in the teen years when you have to teach them how to drive a car without threatening the safety of the general public. Those things really do deserve our attention and angst.
While we face some significant inconveniences, ask yourself if, when thinking of the broader picture, it really matters. And it’s entirely possible that there are big things involved that matter – the big performance, the amazing spring break trip, the celebration of a major milestone. It’s reasonable to mourn those losses.
But also remember what matters most and think about doing your part to protect those things.
Commit and be all in
At first blush, this appears to be at odds with “it doesn’t matter,” but it turns out that it’s a whole lot easier to give 100% and put yourself out there when it doesn’t matter.
Around three-quarters of the way through the night, I realized that I had not seen one person in the audience on their phone. From my fun perch on the stage, I had a great vantage point. My teen in the front row who loves her some social media? Didn’t touch her phone once. When you are all in, it’s so much easier for others to be all in.
There’s something magical when a family is all in on the same thing. If we are all going to be spending more time at home with our families, figure out what might be fun to be all in on, and go for it. Baking, puzzles, games (plan tournaments to make up for the basketball conference tournaments that were cancelled), writing letters of gratitude to people in the community, find something.
One friend in Seattle said that she felt much better when she shifted her perspective from “this sucks for me” to “I’m doing my part.” Be all in on doing your part.
Storytelling is powerful
I’m afraid I had forgotten how very much I love to tell stories until one of the games at the ComedySportz show had me do just that. I told a story about a day in my life and my team reenacted it as a Broadway musical.
I opted for the time that I locked my two-year-old daughter in the car. Why not share my finest Mother of the Year moment?
I got a lot of positive feedback about the story, something I never could have imagined when I was in the moment. Time really is amazing.
It also reminded me that the stories we tell ourselves are powerful. That’s especially true of the stories we tell ourselves about our parenting.
This crazy time is going to give us some interesting stories to share later.
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