In my endless struggle to butt out of my kids’ everyday moments and try desperately NOT to micro-manage every waking moment of their every-living existence, one thing that’s driven me crazy for years is their imaginary play and I just wish I could convey they’re child’s play should be improv comedy.
I know, dude: just butt out. They’re playing? On their OWN? And not FIGHTING?
Leave well enough alone.
But hear me out. Child’s play should be improv comedy.
I don’t know if it’s a factor of my kid’s surroundings, school, peers, or genetic nature, but my kid doesn’t so much play as direct.
Every single time they play be it morning, noon, or after school, all I hear is pretend.
- Hey! Pretend my name is Ella.
- Pretend I’m four years old.
- Pretend I went to school.
- Pretend I got a new dress.
- Pretend the LOL kicked her friend.
- Pretend I said hello.
- Pretend I blinked.
- Pretend I tripped.
- Pretend I said “pretend”.
And I just want to scream, “Stop fucking saying pretend and just DO it!”
She seems incapable of keeping a ball of pretend in the air. She just kinda skips around saying “pretend this happens.”
Then she does whatever that thing is, but doesn’t try to continue with that line of thought. She just does it, looks at the kids around her, waits for them to do whatever they do, and then she moves on to the next “Pretend…”
It. Drives. Me. Crazy.
But fear not – I don’t comment that much. I’m grateful they’re neither bothering me nor beating each other up.
And she’s not the only one who does it. Her friends all do it with her during playdates. So maybe it’s their community? The age?
But still – aren’t they defeating the point of pretend play when they aren’t actually pretending, they’re just directing and narrating? It sure ain’t the case that child’s play should be improv comedy in this day & age.
To mangle the words of Yoda – “Do or do not. There is no pretend!”
While I’m not in improv, I do know the basic rule of improv communication is “Yes, and…?”
As in: Actor 1 walks on stage and declares something random, “Oh my goodness, I love drinking bloody marys at the airport but the egret sitting at the bar with me is grossing me out as it slurps a frog smoothie.”
And Actor 2 must say, “Yes, and…?”’
I mean…not literally. They could say “Oh, those egrets slurp so loudly,” or “Wow, even though you’re a beaver?” or “Yes, and you mean the airport that’s on fire, right?”
But you can’t say, “No, you didn’t.”
I could say, “I’m a designer and entrepreneur making the best diaper bags for dads,” and you’d have to say, “yes, I’ve seen them and they really are the coolest diaper bags for dads. You have a real eye for men’s fashion.”
But you couldn’t say, “No, they’re not the best diaper bags for dads and you are wasting your time. What are you? Insane?”
Cuz that would be breaking the rules of “Yes, and…”
You have to go with the story and make it a positive progression of logic and pretend. You play with the ball tossed to you, you don’t throw down that ball and start to bounce your own. Got it?
I’ve actually tried to introduce this to my kids in their pretend play. Lemme tell ya – it’s not been successful. They look at me as if I have three heads.
Or moreover, my older defiant one justifiably says, “Dad! Don’t tell me what to do.”
Fair enough. She’s 100% right.
But…I mean…if I could just tweak the way you’re going about your pretending…if I could just….
Oh, shut up, Gavin. Follow the “yes, and…?” rule, yourself.
“Yes, kiddo. You keep having fun and I’ll go over here and mind my own business.”
Gavin Lodge is a father of 2 kids not destined for improv comedy as well as the founder of E.C.Knox, baby gear for stylish dads, making diaper bags – in fact the best diaper bag for dads – and moms, too, which make a helluva a gift for a baby registry and baby shower for those new dads and moms in your life.