Tuesday, 13 February 2018

5 Ways to Playfulness: Full Innovation Parenting

attachment-style parenting, virtues, values, humour, humor, playfulness, childlike, Linda Clement, Raising Parents, The Family Virtues Project
Because February is the month of love the posts this month are all about values. This one is about playfulness and humour…

Picture this: two women on an international flight, tired and bored, in a packed economy section for 14 hours. One of them says ‘let’s play rock-paper-scissors’ and the other one goes along with it (after the third time it was suggested.) 

Five minutes later, they’re giggling uncontrollably because they both keep doing ‘rock’ while both keep saying ‘someone has to do something else’ and then both do it again, anyhow. 

Suddenly, the cramped and noisy plane is background to minutes of joy and laughter. Nothing changed in the environment, only the willingness to play made these minutes less uncomfortable, boring and exhausting.

attachment-style parenting, humour, humor, playfulness, childlike, virtues, values, Linda Clement, Raising Parents
Now, of course, the twit who thought up playing rock-paper-scissors half way across the Pacific ocean at middle-of-the-night o’clock was me, and I have a long history of being completely ridiculous, but this is the kind of antic anyone can employ to improve any moment of tedium or annoyance in any situation.

There is nothing in the world like a drab February day, whether it is in the middle of a Canadian (read: seemingly never-ending) winter, or just the 15th rain day in a row, to toss all the possible dull and irritating aspects of cabin fever into a family. 

Let’s have one or more of them have a cold, or worse (and maybe even more likely) the stomach bug that’s making the rounds this year. It’s February, so unless it’s one of those years (divided by a 4) that Olympics are happening –supposing you actually like or watch the Olympics ever—the tv is mid-season reruns, and by now everyone knows all the words to every single Dora, Daniel the Tiger, or Elmo’s World episode… 

attachment-style parenting, pile of bills, drab february, humour, humor, playfulness, childlike, Linda Clement, Raising Parents, love, virtues, values
The bills from Christmas are still in a worrying pile, so there won’t be any escapes to the tropics, and even an escape to the local indoor play place (where everyone can catch that cold and/or stomach bug, yea!) is not in the budget today.

The younger is now determined to get as far up the nose of the other kids as possible, as quickly as possible –whether by repetitively patting them on the head ‘gently’ but incessantly, humming or the same three notes constantly for 9 hours, or saying their favourite word 1100 times until their mouth is numb and everyone in the building wants to choke them out.

And the cat barfs.
attachment-style parenting, humour, humor, playfulness, childlike, improv, virtues, values, Linda Clement, Raising Parents, The Family Virtues Project
Now, who hasn’t been here? In some fashion or other, in the midst of one of those months, where the drudgery is rapidly overtaking the exhaustion, and everything tastes like dry bran.

There is a solution, and it is a wacky one.

Number 1
Do anything differently.

If your house is usually formal, go casual; if it’s usually casual, really dress up. If the usual routine is for a light breakfast and a big dinner, reverse it. If you always sit at the table to eat, sit under it. If you usually wear your clothes frontwards…

There is power in the ridiculous, and in the simple joy of letting go, letting off some steam, and having a laugh.

attachment-style parenting, humour, humor, playfulness, childlike, virtues, values, Linda Clement, Raising Parents, The Family Virtues Project
What makes one family collapse into a heap of giggles will, of course, be very different from what unhinges another, but that’s no reason at all not to try anything.

Be loud, if you’re usually quiet. Play polka music if you usually prefer the opera. Make sleeve puppets with your sweater, and create two whole characters who are worried about being invaded by the ‘arm’-ies they find within…

If you’re often concerned about your adult-like image, use a child-like voice and make the kinds of silly mistakes in language or pronunciation toddlers make while trying to figure out this weird language. Dance like a 3yo. Jump around in the yard like a child pretending to be a kangaroo.

Generally goofing around… singing badly, reciting every word you can think of that starts with J, laying on the floor and kicking in the air like a young baby, acting like a monster… is the idea, here.

Laughter lowers stress levels immediately, it boosts immunity, improves attention, increases energy, and brings people together in a specific, important way: cooperation is necessary.

Number 2
Say yes.

The first rule of improve is ‘yes.’

attachment-style parenting, humour, humor, playfulness, childlike, virtues, values, Linda Clement, improv, kids' art, Raising Parents, love, children
Whatever your team just did, say ‘yes, and…’ to it. The killer of improvisational humour (and creativity and innovation) is when the answer is ‘no, not that.’ Even subtle ways of saying ‘no’ like ‘why did you colour the tree purple?’ or ‘you look like a twerp when you do that’ are humour killers.

Cooperation is key to getting everyone laughing: whatever the last thing tossed into the air was, greet it with ‘sure, let’s go with that, now add this’… the 7yo says ‘farty poopy pants’ and instead of doing a rerun of the lecture about potty language, say ‘yes, and’ by responding ‘party floppy rants’ … and see what happens next…

This was a game that lasted nearly 10 minutes with my potty-obsessed niece, as she tried to get me to repeat whatever poop-related phrase she kept repeating, and I made up other words that rhymed without every saying anything that she wanted me to, which turned potentially irritating behaviour into the whole family giggling.

Number 3
Stand out.

‘You know how people look at you when you say things like that?’ says my terminally-embarrassed-by-her-mother’s-behaviour daughter…

‘That look is exactly why I say things like that…’

I read a few weeks ago someone who said something like: I felt like a freak, an outsider, someone who never had any hope of ever fitting in, until I found Monty Python when I was 12, and thought this is my tribe.

attachment-style parenting, humour, humor, playfulness, childlike, improv, stand out, be different, Linda Clement, Raising Parents, love, connection, The Family Virtues Project
I know that feeling (I was about that age when I found them), and I sometimes suspect it may be universal: that we all feel awkward, like outsiders looking in, like we’ll never understand all the things everyone else seems to just know (like what to say at funerals, or how to stand while someone is scolding you that isn’t too casual or mocking their intensity, or whatever it is you’re supposed to look like when you just want them to stop because you got it the first five words in…

That desire and need to fit in is normal and natural, but some days we just need to recognize that it isn’t us looking like everyone else that will lead to our success but standing out might. Shining our unique light is why we’re here, and we need to help our children feel safe shining theirs –by not fitting in and doing what is normal (around here.)

At least sometimes.

attachment-style parenting, humour, humor, playfulness, childlike, virtues, values, Linda Clement, Raising Parents, The Family Virtues ProjectDancing in the puddles in the pouring rain, even if that neighbours may you think you look crazy.

Dancing in the starlight instead of bedtime, to make an innovative bedtime routine.

Dancing in the dawn light because of being awakened by the sound of the cat retching, because dancing is better than explaining to the kids why the cat’s ‘run away.’

Laughing always comes in a close second after swearing up a storm over how inconvenient all these creatures living in our homes really are, so much of the time…for its therapeutic value. 

There is a great ad, for some church or other, where the kids are caught covered in mud from goofing around with some water, as the parents come home –dad storms off and mom says ‘you’ve really done it now…’ and everyone waits in dread for the storm to come, but dad comes into view with the hose, and joins in.

We always have the option of doing something unexpected, sometimes we just need to be reminded that we’re allowed to stand out and be different.

Number 4
Look for the unrelated.

Part of Monty Python’s quirky humour that immediately resonated with me, and made me spend several decades trying to figure out, was the dis-associated randomness. A pair of men doing what looked like a serious and formal folk dance, but with fish that they slapped each other with. How do you think that up? The Very Silly political party’s candidate’s name, a string of weird words and noises that included Wham Bam Tim Tam Fa-tang Fa-tang Ole Biscuit Barrel.

I mean, how? How do you come up with something so ridiculous?

attachment-style parenting, humour, humor, playfulness, childlike, Linda Clement, Raising Parents, virtues, values, the Family Virtues Project
Sometimes innovation is looking at something and adding one totally unrelated thing: Thomas Kincaid paintings with lights installed in them. Van Gogh’s view of the sky with what looks like bathtub bubbles swirling instead of stars. WestJet Airlines’ irreverent safety announcements that genuinely attract people’s attention. Restaurants without lights, served by waiters without sight. Training people who are blind to do massage. Putting internet access into a fridge.

Innovation is very often just two ideas beside each other that don’t initially look like the fit.

Number 5
Be willing to fail.

That internet fridge? An idea whose time may never come, and far from a roaring success… but the creativity is there. What other bizarre and far more successful ideas might arise from such ludicrous examples of dischord and never tried?

One of the killers of creativity, innovation, and playfulness is believing that all bets must be safe bets, that you must know where this road leads, and that you must avoid failure or mistakes at all costs.

Play requires the Beginner’s Mind: I don’t already know for sure how this will turn out… what if I…?

Innovation and creativity come more out of play than any other aspect of thinking or being. Play is our natural way of exploring the world, and it is our natural way of creating new and innovative ways and things, from technology to ideas to art. Possibly-Picasso said,
Every child is an artist, the problem is to remain an artist once he grows up.
Art is made of play, and all art comes with the 25-50-25 Rule. This is how I remember someone describing this rule:
               All real art requires risk. You have to try something new that you don’t know whether or not it will work until you do. You don’t know if you can accomplish it, or sometimes even if it can be accomplished at all. So, some of what you do will be mediocre: kind of what you were shooting for, but not really all you wanted it to be, and you’re not sure how to fix it (or if it can be fixed at all.) That’s probably 50% of most working artist’s material. And a smaller but significant proportion of the work will be complete crap: irredeemable, unquestionably lousy, with too many errors or problems to even consider bothering to try fixing. Call it the 25% craptastic quota.
               Most working artists (by which I mean people who are actively making art, not necessarily people who sell any to anyone, ever) prefer not to make the 25%, and a whole lot of them will live their whole ‘artistic’ lives safely in the Mediocre 50% realm: safe, okay, good enough, it will do.
               The thing is, there is that other 25% that every honest artist will always admit to wanting to create: the masterpiece, the amazing, innovative, wonderful, inspirational stuff that everyone dreams of signing, sitting back and marveling at (whether or not they ever show it to a single other human.)
               What too few people know is that 25% of amazing requires the 25% craptastic quota. In order to risk what it takes to make the marvelous, you have got to be willing to make the crap, because you have to be working on the edge of what you don’t know you can do well, what you don’t even know if it can be done well. It costs 25% crap to make the top 25% of your work… or you can just settle in the middle, and be a never-was instead of a has-been.
The failure in not even trying is where most people lose their shine, and fall into the doldrums of a too-drab life of predictable, ordinary, fitting in.

attachment-style parenting, humour, humor, playfulness, childlike, Linda Clement, Raising Parents, virtues, values, the Family Virtues Project

Innovation, creativity, and play can elevate a dull February day, even with sick kids, sick pets, sick weather or sick finances. Try one of these five ways of bringing light and energy to your dullest days.

P.S. I’d love to have a collection of stories of other people’s wacky creativity and those magical moments that transform a drab month… share yours in the comments or join the ThriveParenting: AP life andrespecting children facebook page to share there…

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