This morning we watched Small in her Nursery nativity play. It could have gone better; Small is autistic and struggles to cope in situations like that. She lasted well. but, inevitably, got upset and had to leave the hall before the end. But that’s life for us!
Nativity plays are funny things. There is a lot of pressure on these little people to perform, so much anticipation from the adoring families in the audience. We forget that they are so little and expect Oscar-winning performances. Here are the five absolute rules of the primary school nativity play…
- If the start time is 10am, arrive no later than 9.30. You can guarantee the alpha mums will want to bag the front row, so will be there at least 45 minutes before the scheduled start time, sitting with smug looks on their faces and handbags on the adjacent chairs for any friends who arrive late. If you arrive later than half an hour before it’s due to start, you risk sitting right at the back where you can’t see a thing. These children are small, remember – if there’s no stage, you won’t see them over the heads in the audience. Of course, you could arrive 5 minutes before and stand at the back – you’ll probably have a better view.
- When the children come in to the hall, they will do one of three things: most of the children will come in, scan the room to see if they can spot mum and dad (the alpha kids know exactly where to look – Mummy will have briefed them beforehand to look at the front row) and then, when they see them, wave madly and shout “mummy!”. Then there are the kids who come in like rabbits caught in the headlights, eyes wide and fixed on a particular spot on the floor, not wanting to look up and acknowledge the room is full of grown ups and they’re going to have to sing and act in front of them in a minute. And of course, there are the criers*. Often having to be dragged in to the hall by a flustered teacher in the first place, these are the children who burst into tears, wailing “Mummeeeeee! I want Mummeeeeeeee!” and refusing to do anything they have practised for the last few weeks. Pray this is not your child. And, if it is, know that every other parent in the room is a) feeling sorry for you and b) cheering inwardly that it is not their child ruining the play. (* Warning: these are often the children you least expect to cry. The ones who have been confidently performing the songs to anyone who will listen in the run-up to the play.)
- The same children will always get the main parts, year after year. There are children who are born to be Mary and Joseph, and those who will always be the shepherd, or, worse, the sheep. I was always a bit-part and it seems my children are destined to follow in my footsteps (or hoof-steps). Mary will always be either really pretty or really plain, Joseph will be the tallest or the cutest and the donkey will be the loud kid. These children will always get the good parts thanks to their uber-confidence – they are likely to be the offspring of the alpha mummies. If your child is an angel (unless Gabriel), star, soldier, cow or even crab (yes, there are ‘nativities’ with crabs in, apparently!), then know that your child will forever be in the supporting cast.
- Words will be forgotten. Despite weeks of practice both at home and at school, it’s pretty much a given that someone will forget their lines. They’re so little! It’s understandable. There will be an awkward pause, parents will have that ‘ahh, bless them!’ fixed grin on their faces and well-meaning classmates will be hissing either the name of the forgetful child, or the actual line in a desperate effort to save the play. Oh, and watch out for the baby – it usually ends up rolling on the floor too!
- You will love every, single second of it! Despite the crying, shouting out, craning your neck to even see your own child, you will absolutely love seeing these wonderful little people putting everything they have into the production. An amazing amount of effort goes into these plays from all sides; teachers, who put it all together and even lose sleep over them, parents, who come up with some fantastic costumes and help children learn lines and the stars of the shows themselves, who have a remarkable ability for learning lines and songs despite being so young and who, in the main, can stand up in front of rows and rows of grown-ups and show off their skills so wonderfully!
But, however your child’s nativity goes, make the most of it – last night was Big’s final Christmas production (he was a ‘caretaker’) and it only seems five minutes he was a shepherd in his Nursery play. Sob.