Merlin Works Newsletter
You Can Do That With A Baby?
Improv for New Parents
Everybody told me being an improviser was great training for being a mom. You have to be flexible, playful, and, especially with a newborn, let go of control and planning ahead. Being a new mother has pulled from all the resources I have in me, including improv. Let me give you an example.
We went to a free trial of a Music Together Class this weekend. The hour was great. We did call and response, jammed on instruments, sang nonsense songs with motions, danced, and clapped. Basically it felt a lot like an improv rehearsal or an improv singing class. And a lot like a regular day with Sebastian. It made me realize how much improv I do with my son all day long.
Now that he is six months old, I can say what improv games we have been using the most so far:
Mirroring. This comes natural to most adults when around babies. The baby makes a sound, and you echo it right back, to make for the beginnings of a conversation. After almost 20 years of practice, I pride myself on being a really good mimic. I make the coos and howls very precisely. In fact, in the early days of being in the mommy-weeds, one of the few hearty laughs I got was from doing an impersonation of my six-week-old baby. It brought down the house. And by house I mean my house, where my mom and husband were. We didn’t get out much in those days.
Song Spot/Hot Spot. I love to sing and Sebastian loves to be sung to. So we play a little bit of Song Spot all day long. In the bathtub? I start riffing on all the bath time songs I know, “Splish splash I was taking a bath”…. “I like to sing, sing in the shower. La la la”… “Gonna wash that man right outta my hair.” Once bathing songs get going, we free associate to water, then cleanliness, then whatever else pops into my head and the job’s done in no time.
Bippety Bop aka Suddenly Close. Most babies love a good surprise. Although Sebastian doesn’t like the sudden drops and twists that some babies do, he loves it when you get up in his grill. So we often do a sort of version of Bippety Bop (see the video), where I quickly get in his face and make a sound. If it works, he’ll make a good giggle. This is a variation of a game that I think my sister invented, called Suddenly Close (see the video). Where you all of a sudden put your face up to their face and exclaim “Suddenly Close!” Good times all around.
Other improv habits that easily transfer: Clapping and cheering after everything. Being obvious and describing what you are seeing: “You are looking at the kitty cat.” Making your partner look good. Letting go of attachment to outcome. Being present. Poise under pressure. Supporting the hero’s journey.
Any improv parents out there find some improv game or habit exceedingly useful with their little one? I’ve only got a few months under my belt and would love to know what’s around the corner.
My improv training does help me be a better mom, but it also really helps me be a better improviser. When I’m stumbling all day through new motherhood and then go to the theater to teach a class and do a show, it’s such a relief to get to do something I have some mastery over. Right now I’d say I’m a good mother and a great improviser. Hopefully someday I’ll be great at both.
Founder, Merlin Works