STFU and Other Thoughts about Children’s Christmas Concerts

Dee’s school Christmas concert was last night. She was in a tizzy earlier this week because she missed school Monday and Tuesday with the flu and there was rehearsal every day.

“I’m missing rehearsal,” she wailed at one point. “And the count-down calendar!”

I don’t remember if this was before or after her delirious paranoid ramblings about the Christmas tree which apparently was behaving in a sinister manner or perhaps it was while she was lying on the couch moaning about how hungry she was but that she wasn’t going to eat again until she was sure that she wouldn’t vomit it back up. Fun times.

“I’m glad I’m not a woman,” Rob remarked. “I am pretty sure I couldn’t do all that maternal stuff.”

And by “maternal stuff”, he meant – holding a child’s head while she puked and being able to be comforting as opposed to not puking on the child himself.

“It would suck to be the mom,” he told me.

It does sometimes and that is a fact.

But Dee was recovered enough on Wednesday for me to take her a bit late and she was positively bouncy on Thursday because the whole day was literally taken up with performing – for the other kids and with two parent shows.

Having been a middle school teacher, I can assure you that nothing of any academic consequence goes on the week before school lets out for the holiday. Nothing. It is containment only. But since I don’t buy into the notion that children go to school to supply the workplace with simple, obedient drones, I am fine with this. Rounding out a child is what schools should be about and there is nothing like a week’s worth of excitement over practicing for and performing in productions to help smooth edges.

The Christmas concerts in Canadian schools are heavy on Christianity. There is no attempt to whitewash the actual origins of the holiday to mollify those who don’t practice or don’t care or don’t believe. Christmas began with the birth of Jesus (not really – but let’s pretend anyway) and gosh darn-it, the little guy is going to be represented. Because of this, we were treated by the grade oners to the story of the Nativity with a stage full of angels, shepherds, three wise men, Joseph, Mary and a baby doll in a manger.

The gym was packed. And noisy. I can’t recall a performance there where the parents have ever been quite this rude. In fact, most of the people who hemmed Rob and I in chatted at normal conversational tones on and off for most of the 50 minutes it took for the lower grades to perform.

The prize winners though sat on Rob’s right and just ahead in the next row.

A family of five. Mom, Dad, toddler, pre-schooler and a pre-teen American gangsta wanna-be. Mom and Lil’ G were hands down the most obnoxious audience members I can ever recall, and I taught 13 years olds for years so that is definitely saying something.

They had snacks. It was just 6:15 and presumably most people eat their supper before these evening school events, but Mom and Lil’ G may have had some metabolic disorder that didn’t allow them to go more than an hour without soda. Lil’ G pulled on a bottle of Pepsi like a newborn on the tit every ten minutes without fail.

Lil’ G was the end product of the brilliance of commercial television conditioning if ever I have seen the species. Ball cap with New York City stitched on it and a hubcap sized gold medallion hanging off a chain around his neck. Pants that bagged prisoner bitch style, he had the cocked at the elbow arm pump movements down and he shouted out to his friends as they passed with the appropriate finger wiggles. He couldn’t shut up and he couldn’t stay seated. The latter was a good thing because it meant he would leave the gym periodically and his absence actually quieted his mother down too.

Mom kept the two chairs on either side of her open despite the standing room only crowd. I couldn’t tell if this was on purpose or if the fact that she overhung her own seat by a bit discouraged possible seatmates from attempting to claim a spot near her. It was telling that her husband chose to sit in the row behind her and Lil’ G with the toddler, who was better behaved than his older siblings.

Rob usually brings the camera to record Dee’s concerts. We haven’t played it back yet, but I think we will have captured Lil’G’s rambling commentary more than Dee’s class singing. More than once I wanted to lean over and whisper to his mother,

“Can you please tell your kid to shut the fuck up?” But I didn’t because she looked the type to haul off and smack me down, and since she was bigger than I am, I decided to endure.

Later, Rob commented on the crowd in general.

“I look around at these things and wonder if we have Dee in the right school,” he said.

“Did you see the guy in the wife-beater?” I asked.

“Yeah, where did he come from?”

He came late. I saw him, his wife and baby slip in during the grade three performance and was amazed that he’d gone out on a cold December night so scantily clad. There weren’t any coat racks in the hall, so I knew he had to have come from his home or vehicle with just the t-shirt on. A no-sleeved undershirt. And I don’t think the tats were keeping him any warmer than his boot camp issue haircut.

“These people are all so …”

“Working class?” I supplied.

“No, they are farther down the food chain than that,” Rob said.

True. Dee’s school is primarily a neighborhood one and the ‘hood is a poor one. Kids like Dee are bused in from the country and from the town’s suburban south side and they are out-numbered.

“If we end up staying here, we are going to have to rethink her schooling.”

I have been writing a bit over at the education blog about environment and it’s effect on school performance, and it reminded me that Dee can’t be left for too long around the off-spring of people who Rob and I wouldn’t choose to personally associate with. For the most part young children tend to be most influenced by their home environment and parents but at some point peers rule, and I don’t want these kids ruling my kid. Sure, they are cute now but that won’t last judging from the crowd last evening.

I don’t want a daughter like the mother of Lil’ G or a grandson like him.

My parents allowed my youngest sister to be ruined by her associations as a middle and high school student. Back in the day, Special Education rooms were often dumping grounds for the those kids who were lowest on the socio-economic ladder and poor BabySis, who is borderline MD, was exposed to a value system that basically ruined her as a person. I don’t think that this could happen to Dee, but childhood companions are important early influences.

On the upside, Dee performed with her usual serious diligence. She takes every aspect of school seriously, even the fun parts. After we got home, she sat at the table, drinking hot cocoa and reading her Junie B Jones book. Her nose is nearly always in a book these days since she graduated to chapter books. Reading is still a bit slow for her but she reminds me of me when I finally could read. I read all the time.

Not that she is always serious. A writer friend sent us one of those giant cans of flavored popcorn yesterday. When Dee got home from school, I told her the UPS man had left a package for the family and it was on the dining room table. I’d opened it already and the can was sitting on the table. The box it came in was on the floor.

Dee raced into the other room while I waited on the couch.

“Oh wow,” she exclaimed. “It’s a box!”

She still prefers the box. A good sign.

3 responses to “STFU and Other Thoughts about Children’s Christmas Concerts

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