After 17 years of formal education, during which people told me what to read for at least three-quarters of the year, it was refreshing (and a little bewildering) to graduate from college and realize that I could now choose my own books. For a while I kept on picking from the should-reads, trying to form a good balance of Correct and Recommended Reading Material– I know this is an important classic, somebody I respect told me about it, I feel guilty that I was an English literature major but never got around to this one*. But then I realized that if I wanted to alternate frothy romances with 1500-page historical sagas, then plow through the complete works of Willa Cather, then pick up a completely unrelated book about Haitian healthcare or astronaut science, and then read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin for the fifth time, nobody could stop me.
WOO HOO HOO it’s lucky I have a library card or there might soon be zero bucks left in our bank account.
Anyway, last summer I had a grumpy baby in the house and needed a truckload of levity to balance him out. So I checked out a string of comedienne memoirs. And this summer, as I watch my two oldest children figure out how to play well together, I’ve been remembering what Amy Poehler said about improv comedy: that onstage, you must always try to answer the other person with a Yes, and. Acknowledge what they said and then build on it. (“Look, a dragon!” “Yes! What’s it doing with that potato?”)
In the same vein, I am trying to encourage my girls to “play on the same side.” They need to receive the other person’s ideas as potential fuel for their own. Instead of each trying to seize sole control of the script, they need to follow the thread of the game together. They can’t be so tightly clamped to their original vision that unexpected suggestions threaten their mental stability. 😉 As they mature, they’re able to act more like an improv troupe–your success means my success–and less like two divas elbowing each other over the soprano role.
So then I start overhearing conversations like this:
“Let’s play Lick the Bug!”
“Ok. You be the fly and I’ll be the toad.”
Hmmmmm . . .
*Lord of the Flies, The Color Purple, Brothers Karamazov, Madame Bovary, anything by William Faulkner or Sylvia Plath…still have not read. Don’t intend to. And I finally admitted that I simply don’t like Flannery O’Connor. No thunderbolt of judgement yet.