A lot of mom-ing for me has been learning on the job. Sure, I consult Dr. Google, our actual Dr., my family and friends, and of course the glorious BVT Moms Blog (shameless! plug!) but I rely on my instincts a lot of the time. Some of my instincts have been trained by wonderful comedy folks at The Second City. I bet my teachers, coaches and fellow improvisers didn’t know what a huge impact they’d have on how I raise my daughter, but I’ll be forever grateful.
Always Say Yes
You may have heard the term “always say yes (and)” thanks to Tina Fey, the internet, or maybe you’ve taken a class at Spark Arts here in Burlington. “Yes, and” is an improvisers main tool for a reason. Most of the time, saying “no” will stop a scene in it’s tracks, unable to move forward. Saying “Yes” moves it forward towards new and possibly hysterical frontiers. Accepting what your fellow improvisers say on stage can be annoying at times. Like if your scene partner says “We are on a spaceship, isn’t it amazing?” and you had in your mind that you were in the Mojave Desert. Oh well, just accept this statement and move on. In other words, roll with the punches. “YES, I’m enjoying living on this spaceship, AND I’m so glad I’m here with my best friend.” Easy enough. As a mom, it’s not quite as easy but luckily I get thrown curve balls every day so I get to practice a lot:
“YES, my baby daughter and I are in the middle seat for a five hour cross-country flight with my husband in a different row… AND we are going to handle this in a calm and positive way. Weeeeee!”
It’s All About the Ensemble
One thing I love about improv is that you’re almost never on stage alone. You have an ensemble team ready and willing to help you. We can’t all be awesome all day, every day. Everyone has “off” days or off moments, aka brain farts. Haha, farts. See? I told you I was funny. If you’re having a rough day or moment as a parent, let your ensemble of family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers help you pick up the slack. And vice versa. Support your ensemble when you see them struggling. My husband is also learning on the job and I can’t expect him to have all the answers or perform perfectly all the time. This is a tough pill for me to swallow but I’m learning to stop expecting him to do things exactly the same way I do. But if he does need help, I’ll happily provide lots of support. Go team!
Focus on the Relationship
I can’t believe I’m giving away all of my improv secrets but here I go. My favorite tool to use when a scene feels like it’s going off the rails is to focus on the relationship. It can be easy to focus on the outside action. “We are on a freakin’ SPACESHIP. Holy crap, look at all this SPACE STUFF!” But that may not make for a fun(ny) scene to be in or watch. Focusing on a scene partner by looking into their eyes and talking about your relationship (are you siblings? best friends?) slows everything down and can make the point of the scene more clear. As a parent, this tool is even more important. When days are filled with so much external space junk, it’s easy to get swept up in it. My to-do list might be 1,000 miles long (oh gosh, it’s probably longer, can someone in Miami please hand me the end of my list?) But taking a moment to pause and focus on my daughter and my husband can help ground me. I can go back to tackling that list with a reminder of what all of these tasks are actually about: having a happy life.