Archive for December, 2010

I wrote this one back in November and never hit “publish”…so here it is now:

As a new improvisor, I remember being awed by how quickly experienced improvisors created stories and brought them to life. They were just so fast. I certainly could never do that.

As I became more experienced in working with stories and re-engaged with the joy of making things up, I started to learn how quickly my own brain worked to create stories AND how one of the many challenges of co-creation is to simultaneously allow stories to blossom in our imaginations and to discard them in response to what someone else says or does.

I became fascinated with the process, with how we are storied creatures. This is what humans do; we tell stories. We are made for it. Our brains are wired for it. If someone asks you to use the words cow, spoon and river in a sentence, you’ll do it by creating a very brief story. I immediately see a cow floating down a river with a spoon around her neck. That’s what my imagination offers me. I’m  curious about that image…I’ll have to see where that story goes.

As a drama therapist with and interest in narrative therapy, I’ve had many opportunities to explore how stories function — both to hurt and to heal — in people’s lives, including my own. Again and again, I’ve reawakened to that early improv-based discovery — we create stories fast.  Improv has helped me become more aware of the process and also the rate at which we discard our imagination’s offerings because they are not good enough, funny enough or some other reason. (Really? A cow on a raft on a river? That makes no sense, there’s no story there.)

As a parent, sometimes my story-ing is wonderful and helpful at imagining what might be going on in LP’s world.  Other times it gets in the way.  When I don’t realize that I’ve created a story about her experience and am missing her expressing her actual experience, we are often bound for a clash or a visit to tantrumville.  Truly, nothing sets off my girl like the phrase “I know…” even if it is something I do know is true for her.  She is sensitive to that turn of the phrase and I think the meaning underneath it — that I already have a story about her that explains it all.

A recent life example:  LP had her first dentist visit last week.  She was a trooper and for the most part pretty curious and engaged. Until the tooth polishing. She tried to climb out of the chair so fast it was hard to catch her.  After a bit of coaxing (and  a promise of a red balloon), LP was willing to lie on top of me on the chair.  The dental hygienist said (and I echoed) “It’ll go real fast” and LP fought her hands away protesting.  It took some work to help calm her down and then LP said, “NO. Not fast, slow.”

Oh. Yes. That is her telling her story, expressing her needs. I would want it to go fast so of course that was the story I told myself about what LP wanted. However, LP is different she wants it to go slow. And with the dental hygienist going slowly she was able to have every tooth polished and when it was over, she seemed quite proud about that.

Our innate story ability is a beautiful, amazing thing AND as parents who have such influence over our little people’s worlds it is important to take moments to check-in and see if the story we have about them matches their reality.

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The Pig-Shaped Dog

We landed home a week ago after 3 weeks on the East Coast immersed in family visiting (with a dash of friend visiting thrown in too).

I have finally finished unpacking, catching up on laundry, emails and other misc. stuff, almost finished sending out holiday cards and have caught the obligatory holiday season cold. So now I’m preparing myself to do the other kind of unpacking ~ reflecting on the trip and trying to capture the things I want to remember from my time on the road with my girl. It will probably take a few posts to do that. My emotional experience of the trip was much like my experience the first year of LP’s life — individual moments went on forever but the trip as a whole seemed to fly by.

What stands out as an overall impression is it was amazing to have this concentrated time with my daughter. Away from home and our routine, I was able to watch her with fresh eyes and just enjoy the creative, spontaneous being she is…it is a pleasure to be able to say “yes!” to her growing abilities and independence and to experience her growing ability to say “yes!’ in return.

I was reminded of that ability on our plane trip home. This was one of the more challenging things for me because I was so ready to be home and those last few hours flying cross-country dragged out.  LP (my experienced traveler) was restless too as she began asking for “another present” and “another present”before we even took off. (The carry-on backpack is full of toys and books that only appear on the plane. There are usually one or two new goodies but mostly it is thing she’s experienced before re-wrapped in tissue paper.)  When the wikki sticks emerged (one of her favorites), I though I could have a break and read my book while she played but she wanted me to make her a dog with them.

I tried to shape the darn things into something resembling a dog but it just wasn’t happening.  It looked like a pig with a long tail and no matter how I twisted or shaped the sticks, that’s what it looked like.  The longer I worked on it, the less dog-like it became.  Finally I gave up and handed it to her while apologizing “it looks a bit more like a pig than a dog.”

Yet LP was happy with it and as I settled in to read a few pages while she played, I overheard her narration of her imagination, “…so the pig-shaped dog went to meet the monkey…”

Say yes to the pig-shaped dog.

Ah, yes.

The point is not for it to look like a dog. The point is that she asked me to make her something that she could use in her imaginative play. She could take it from there…and she did for longer than I would have thought possible.  I got caught up in judging my artistic effort (so easy to do) and lost sight of the interaction and intention.  The most realistic shaped wikki stick dog would have served the same purpose as my pig-shaped one.  Perhaps different in terms of what might emerge in LP’s imagination but not better or worse.

Yes. Lesson learned and relearned. Hurray for the pig-shaped dog!

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The Chanukah Cow

LP and I are on the road visiting family on the East Coast.  We’re about halfway through a 3 week trip and if the quiet moment I long for ever arises, I might be able to write a reflective post about traveling solo with my girl.

Until then…just a cute kid post.

LP has invented the Chanukah cow.  She opens up one of her cousins’ plastic dreidels and takes it over to her imaginary cow and milks the cow’s “dreidel juice” then drinks it.  Her making the milking noises is delightful. I’d love to get it on video but I’m afraid filming might ruin the pure delight and engagement of the moment.

My contribution?  A bad pun:

What does the Chanukah cow say?


(LP is not so into this joke but one of her 6 year old cousins thinks it is hysterical.)

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