22 Dec I was a piece of Holly!
The Nativity play – chances are if you have a child in nursery or school they will be in one. The school show prompts a mix of emotions in me. Mainly a fear of making a costume, will my child have stage fight/conform in general and, most of all, the competitive parent.
You may have spotted one. They are normally a class rep, PTA head honcho, and know all of the staff by name (and their birthdays). Their children are also most likely to have a lead role and lines to go with it. Now the source of this inherent fear could have sprouted from my childhood experience of being made a piece of holly in my nativity (see pic). A piece of fricking HOLLY! I remember pondering why my friend Sally was playing the part of Mary. She was front and centre stage most of the time and the adult parent types talked about it a lot. There were whispers that she had been given the part because her father was donating the donkey. All the while I was placed on the side wearing a painful head band made of real holly (father very proud of making it), and I did not appreciate the fact that I had been chosen to sing the opening solo of the play. I wanted to be Mary and to own a donkey. My competitive hackles were up even at that age (5yrs).
Back in November my 3-year-old Ella started to talk about the nativity play. Her focus was on the songs – they were new, catchy, involved a donkey (cool!) and a switch up from ‘Twinkle Twinkle’. My immediate thought was I really hope my husband can make it. Not only would it make her year having him there but I would need to an extra pair of hands to man mark baby Joseph should Ella decide to not perform, melt down, stomp off stage… My second (almost immediate) thoughts were – what role will she be playing and will I have to make a costume? So much judgement could be thrown my way by other parents.
As Ella sang ‘Jingle Bells’ in a nonsensical language in the bath, my mother in law also reminded me that in New York a preschool show can serve as a feeder assessment for Harvard. Despite my reservations about competitive parents I admit, I went on a fact-finding mission. ‘So Ella – what did you wear when you practiced the show today?’ I inquired. ‘White Mummy.’ An Angel I assumed. ‘I liked it when I was a reindeer too’. She continued.
‘Noah is playing Mary.’ She also volunteered. Perfect a progressive post modern interpretation of the story. ‘Do you need to say anything darling?’ I probed. ‘I don’t know mummy – I ate carrots for lunch.’ Conversation closed.
The preschool were very discreet. Tickets were limited to 2 adults so there was more than enough room for everyone, there was no indication of roles, costumes would be provided (yey!). There would also be photos taken before the performance. All the pressure was removed. We could sit back and enjoy the show instead of through an iPhone camera and the space between someone’s ear lobe and neck.
As the show day approached, the playground chat was littered with references to the nativity.
“My daughter is singing the solo – I will need my tissues”
“Sophie has the opening line of the show!”
All said with an air of utter pride stroke, my child is a chosen one due to superior talent and ability.
Ella’s show was last Friday and the irony is that my husband, baby Joe and I were the first to arrive (by accident – I promise!), were ushered into front row seats (so pleased if mildly embarrassed) and quickly found ourselves chatting amiably to other parents about school choices in the area. She was an Angel alongside 10 other Angels, singing the same songs as 10 Sheep, 10 kings & 10 shepherds. Not one child had lines to rehearse or solos to perform. I did notice Ella looking longingly at her friend Orla playing Mary but she has since explained it was because her dress was similar to an Elsa dress (blue).
I also realise that this fear of competitive parents highlights the competitiveness in myself which is just another form of wanting the best for my little ones. I did have to stop myself from pulling out my phone and filming the entire thing. Instead I sat back and enjoyed Ella’s interpretation of the music (wiggling her bum), chided myself for not realising that her nonsensical bath singing was in fact FRENCH (such a good preschool), and tried not to read too much into my friend’s mum (head of am dram) claim that she is a born performer.
Bring on sports day!