Last year, my confident little boy was the ‘lead’ in the preschool nativity. The preschool he went to was fairly small and there were only 10 children in his class. He was utterly brilliant, commanding everyone’s attention and ad-libbing the line ‘IT’S BABY JESUS TIME’ when the doll was wheeled out. Like a weird twist on ‘It’s Chico Time.’ It made my heart burst with pride, and even now when I think about it I can’t help but smile. Plus it’s given me an excuse to mention Chico and Baby Jesus in the same sentence.
As faithful readers know, this year my wee man has started school and is one of 90 children in Reception. 90. Children. That’s a bagload of kids to coordinate in a Christmas play. But coordinate them they did, in a very festive production of ‘Ralph the Reindeer.’
‘What’s it about?” I hear you cry. Well dear reader, let me tell you. Having sat through 25 minutes of it, I have absolutely no shitting idea. Not. A. Clue.
What I do know however is that my confident little chap was relegated from the main character to a mere bit part. A supporting artist. He was a narrator. Which is a fancy way of saying he had two lines, along with 30 other children.
To be honest, I was OK with this until I went to the show and came to the heartbreaking realisation that he didn’t get to go and sing and dance on the stage.
Let me explain – all Sonny wants to do is sing and dance on a stage. He lives for it. He is fascinated with the kids on BGT and other talent shows we’ve shown him on YouTube, and he never stops ‘performing.’ I’ve put that in inverted commas as most of these performances include songs about bum bums but hey, he still plays to an audience. And he loves it.
But instead of being on the stage, he was part of a crowd of narrators all sitting on the floor, stage left, not even visible to the majority of the seated crowd.
MY SODDING HEART WEPT. It wept for two things. Firstly that my little cherub didn’t get to sing ‘Sniff Snuff’ on the stage (storyline – still no clue) and dance around like a giraffe trying to scratch its nose.
Secondly, and most shockingly, I am THAT Mum. The one all teachers complain about. The one the other Mum’s raise their eyebrows at. I am the Mum who thinks their 4-year-old child has been cheated as he wasn’t given the lead role in the sodding Christmas play. WHAT THE CHICO HAS BECOME OF ME?!?
Obviously, I love my children fiercely and will always want the best for them. But I am also pragmatic and realistic and appreciate that they won’t always get what they want. We have lots of discussions about how sometimes you won’t win, and how you have to practice and work at things to get good at them.
However, for some reason, his lack of stage gracing really stung. It was a big stinking reminder that at some point, my two treasures will be in the big bad world. Sometimes they will be sidelined and overlooked and made to work alongside a load of elves, reindeers, stars and angels (plot – still not a scooby).
Sitting in the audience, and whilst craning to see my little one shaking his thang to a song about ‘Tapping Away’ (WHAT IS HAPPENING), I realised how easy it is to be sidelined. And how much that sidelining can chip away at our self-confidence.
As a child, I wrote these crazy stories which my teachers thought were pretty good and my parents were advised to develop this skill and get me some extra tuition. They didn’t.
At 9 years old, I delivered a 10-minute monologue during the Christmas play which the headteacher praised and told my parents to send me to drama school. They didn’t.
For whatever reason, I remained on the sidelines, quiet, nervous and lacking in confidence.
Even today, I sat quietly trying to see my little narrator through lots of bobbing heads, too scared to stand up and move. In contrast, My husband boldly strode over to the side of the hall and filmed the singing much to our boy’s delight.
I found myself wincing at his boldness. Which on reflection makes me a bit of a dick, too worried about upsetting the other parents to see the end goal. Too nervous to dare to move and disturb anyone else’s experience of the performance.
We should push ourselves to the front. Sometimes it won’t be possible, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try. So what if people give shitty side glances and very British tuts? We have to do what is right for us, obviously not to the detriment of others, but having the courage to stride out will always produce positive results.
In this instance, the positive results include a video we will keep forever and share when we do a ‘Childhood Roundup’ at his 18th birthday party. Maybe he’ll be a successful artist and we will share it for an embarrassing (but cute) interview with an ancient Jonathon Ross.
More importantly, it’s demonstrated to him how he should put himself first, how much he is loved and how brilliant he is at dancing to songs in a play I still know nothing about.
So despite learning diddly squat about reindeer’s called Ralph, I did learn a valuable lesson this festive season. Be bold. Like my boy. Like my husband. Like Chico.
I also learned the following #facts from my first school Christmas play:
- Always get there early so you can sit on the front row and give yourself a fighting chance of following the story (WHO IS RALPH?).
- Tesco and Sainsbury’s make a KILLING from sales of Christmas costumes.
- Don’t expect your little cherub to wear the bow tie that is a part of their outfit. Not around their neck anyway. Instead, expect it to be firmly wedged up their nose making them look like something from The League of Gentlemen.
- Never sit behind a 2-year-old named after a Gladiator (points/kudos if you can guess which one). It will make you sad when his Mum threatens to ‘smack his bum’ and ‘throw his dummy in the bin.’ For moving around. At a play that adults can’t follow. FFS.
- At some point, one of the children on stage will start crying and it will take all your steely might not to run on that stage and comfort them with hugs and chocolate. The only thing that makes this easier is that you don’t really know them and so they might find it a bit weird.
- Children singing = parents crying. I have yet to be able to remain dry of cheek when any child sings. Even if it is ‘Sniff Snuff’.
I’m now off to google ‘what the balls is Ralph the Reindeer about’ and sign my boy up for a performing arts class. If he continues to love it, one day he will make it to the stage, and I’ll be standing proudly at the front, videoing him, crying.
And it will be wonderful. 😉