Learning by improv theatre

Dear Miru,

You are four years old now. We have real conversations. When I pick you up from kindergarten and I ask you what have you done today (in Dutch) you tell me brief but wonderful stories about making a snowman, observing insects and hedgehogs, dancing or taking the bus together with all the other children on a mini excursion. You also tell me when a classmate pushed you and you didn’t want to play together.

You might not remember these conversations later, so I write this short blog post that could remind you if you ever get curious about this early episode in your life that fills your parents with so much joy.

Rather than just indulging in this role of a sentimental father and overburden you with praise, I should make use of the occasion and practice the persona of the critical father that, if played well becomes a source of mental stability rather than trauma.

There is little to be critical about, though. Of course, there are the minor incidents when you don’t want to stop watching episodes of Peppa Pig or refuse to sit straight on your chair during a meal, but those sharp edges are what makes you a child rather than a tamagotchi. Even if you have become a bit more stubborn recently and demand me to carry you on my arms when we walk to school, this is still no reason to complain.

Maybe my approach of taking life not too seriously is working. Take for example how we have developed our elevator game. A few weeks ago, when I pushed the elevator button before you, you cried like a teenager who just heard her favorite singer’s concert had been canceled (glad we are not in that phase yet). Then we decided to turn it into a game. Now I put you down at the entrance of the parking garage and we run to the elevator in order to push the button together. No crying. No drama.

Or the empathy game. When you do something that other people don’t like, I pretend to be these other people and ask you to play Miru (which you know very well is different from being Miru). So you run on the sidewalk without watching and bump into the man. After I have nodded and mumbled our apologies and the man has removed himself from the scene, I become the man and you become who you were 30 seconds ago.

“Bump into me again!” I challenge you.

You thrust yourself forward like a bull and laugh when you hit my knee. Yes it hurts, and the Miru of 30 seconds ago was naughty, but I tell it to the new one, the grown-up, the one that played the previous version.

I think that as long as you play along with this Thespian moral education, I won’t feel the need to criticize you.