98: Wishing for a Silent Night

98: Wishing for a Silent Night

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Christmas

Wishing for a Silent Night

You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.

~Franklin P. Jones

I should start mentally preparing after Thanksgiving, but, like a root canal or gynecological appointment, I prefer not to think about it until I absolutely have to. Sometime during the second week of December, Derek and I will have to attend at least one school Christmas concert.

We’re bad parents. We loathe school concerts. It wasn’t always this way. When our eldest child was four, we attended our first holiday concert at his preschool. It was delightful. The children were adorable, but none as precious as our own darling boy.

That was eleven years ago. We’d probably still be enjoying holiday concerts except that we’ve added three more sons since that first experience. Consequently, we’ve attended about thirty school concerts. We’ve endured recorder recitals, choir competitions and spring solo extravaganzas, but the bane of our existence remains the Christmas concert.

Have you ever tried to force a twelve-year-old skateboarding “dude” into a jacket and tie? Have you ever spent hard-earned dollars on choir outfits worn only twice? Have you ever shopped for dress shoes with a child who doesn’t believe in shoelaces? If you can answer yes to one of these questions, then you’ll know why the glitter has worn off the whole holiday concert experience.

The cherub who was sweet as an angel at five becomes an embarrassment at eleven as he scowls from the back row of the choir, with his tie flung behind his neck so as to announce to the world, “You can make me wear it, but you can’t make me like it!”

And there’s the repetition. The same carols attempted every year. A quick route to a migraine is hearing the Fifth Grade Beginners Band pound out “Jingle… Bells… Jingle … Bells” in achingly precise 4/4 time.

When our children were little we stayed for the entire concert, even though our kids were in kindergarten and second grade. One year we realized we could skip out after our kids were done, but that was the year the music teachers grew diabolically clever and began interspersing grades, culminating in an all-school grand finale.

I’m all for music education in our schools, just like I’m all for people eating tofu. I just don’t want to experience it personally.

Christmas concerts are a way to reward faithful teachers who’ve labored for months trying to teach music fundamentals to children. Considering what they have to work with, they produce miracles each year. But, can’t I just send a dozen roses to the band room?

It got so bad I used to pray for a kid to misbehave, just to liven things up. But that proved to be a bad strategy that I abandoned after my second-born wrapped his shepherd’s costume around his face and acted like a mummy during the Virgin Mary’s solo. The girl who played Mary alternately smiled sweetly into the audience and glared at Alex, as he approached the manger, hands outstretched in a stiff-legged mummy shuffle.

My outlook might be different if I had a budding Pavarotti or Domingo in the family, but so far all I have is the Pips with no Gladys Knight.

We didn’t fully weigh the consequences when we decided to have four children. It looks like we’ll be sitting through at least 100 more school concerts. There’s just no way to avoid the second week of December. Bah humbug!

~Cindy Hval

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