Becoming a parent is a never ending story – no, I mean journey (stop pretending to be Limahl and pay attention) full of unexpected twists and turns. Even the events you expect can turn out quite differently from how you might, well, expect. A prime example of this is the school nativity. Whether you are facing your first or fifth this festive season here are 5 top tips to make sure you survive the annual 45 minutes of torture with your dignity in tact and your stomach contents where they should be….
Tip 1: Don’t throw up.
I don’t mean from the sickly sweet sentiment of the occasion. Even the most hardened cynic will melt when they see their little angel decked in tinsel and singing silent night off key but that doesn’t mean they will part contents with their lunch.
If however the sight of others forceful regurgitation is likely to make you follow suit then be warned – at least one child is going to blow chunks. It will probably happen about half way through, right at the critical moment when a 5 year old has to give birth to a tiny tears doll. This is such a delicate moment for the teacher to script I have a sneaking suspicion that they may actually prime a sickly shepherd or wise man on purpose to divert attention. Mary says ‘O Joseif, I is going to haf a baby’ and shepherd 2 who has been fiddling with her tea towel with increasing distress erupts. This leads nicely to…
Tip 2: Don’t laugh
Don’t laugh at the child who throws up. Don’t laugh at the child who breaks wind loudly. Don’t laugh at precocious child who delivers the angel Gabrielle proclamation in their best, most heartfelt and well rehearsed drama school voice. There is always one. The parents will be the one of the front row mouthing the words along with her.
Don’t laugh as the farmyard animals go feral shedding cotton wool all over the choir and the audience. And definitely don’t laugh at the one who bursts into tears at the sight of his parents and spends the rest of proceedings trying to break free from the iron grip of the nearest teaching assistant. If you do laugh the parents will find you and beat you up after school.
Tip 3: Be prepared to pay up
Most schools do not allow parents to photograph their little Christmas stars because not all parents have given permission for their children to be photographed. Instead the teachers photograph the dress rehearsal and then sell you the photos. These photos will be printed on cheap paper, only feature the back of your beloveds head but you will feel duty bound to buy them anyway. Also, it will be fight to get your mits on any at all in the parenting scrum that will occur in front of that tressel table so wear elbow and knee pads for your own protection which leads me too…
Tip 4: Be ready for a fight
No, not the kids – although it isn’t unknown for an angel and cow to get into a scrap over who sits where – I mean your fellow parents. The school will tell you that ‘doors open’ around 20 minutes before the performance is scheduled to begin, do not make the mistake of thinking you can turn up 5 minutes before and have a hope in hell of getting a seat. In fact don’t assume being first in the queue outside the locked doors 10 minutes before they open means you will get a seat either. There are always the parents that seem to teleport in and manage to snaffle the best seats before you have even left home. It is possible that they hide in the toilets all day and sneak out once the seats have been arranged. You won’t beat them so you might as well pack yourself some sandwiches and your kindle and hide out in the bogs with them.
Tip 5: Your children must see you or it doesn’t count.
Wherever you end up sitting, however cool and hip you think you are, if your children do not see you then you simply were not there and can look forward to a minimum of 6 months guilt tripping. When your little Mary (and here’s a tip for free: do not get hung up on what role they get. Being the virgin Mary does not get them extra points in the after life or anything) traipses into the hall she will look around frantically for you. She will look very anxious, chew her lips and wrinkle her forehead until she spots you at which point she will beam, jump up and down and start shouting ‘hi mummy, hi daddy I’m the virgan Mawy!’. Regardless of where you are sat, stood, crushed you MUST wave wildly, grin manically and mouth ‘yes I know.. yes go sit in the stable now’ and basically make yourself look like a total tit until you are sure they know for certain you are there. Which ever side of the hall you have chosen they will be sat on the other but you need to maintain ‘being there’ by maintaining constant eye contact with them, no matter what damage your neck sustains from being held at such an odd angle. Parenthood means suffering so suck it up solider.
Following these simple tips will give you the best chance of surviving not just this nativity bust every nativity to come. If all else fails just go and have fun.
And gin. Lots and lots of gin.