As the festive season approaches, we reach that time of year most dreaded by parents of school age children (with the odd exception, and I mean odd!) everywhere.
To what could I be referring? Could it be:
- The sudden dramatic increase in advertising aimed at children? “No dear, I don’t think that that cape/mask/utility belt/nuclear gunge blaster will turn you into a real superhero.” “I know, it really is a shame that Father Christmas has never brought you a game involving picking someone’s nose or clearing up dog poo, even though you’ve asked nicely so many times.”
- The advent calendar ‘explanation’? “No you can’t have another chocolate. We open one door each day and eat one chocolate each day, then when we’ve eaten all the chocolate what will it be…..?” To which my two year old replied “it will be an empty box Mummy”.
- The Christmas list? Or more precisely the fact that the requests that have been set in stone since approximately 3rd August suddenly change to something else entirely once they are faced with paper and pen. My children are allowed to suggest three things that they might like in their letters to Father Christmas, they understand that they might receive all, some or none of these things. Pickle dictated her letter, the first two items were as expected. Then she threw a curve ball “please tell Father Christmas that I’d like a teddy bear”. Aww I hear you say, how sweet and how easy…………or so you would think. To clarify the situation I asked if she had a particular teddy in mind? Yep. She did. “It’s a big pink teddy bear, I saw it while I was sleeping, it was resting in the shade…….” Good luck with that one Father Christmas!
But, no, it’s none of those things.
I am, of course, referring to the school Christmas play (at our school it’s called a ‘production’ which couldn’t be more accurate).
It happens at the same time every year. We know it’s looming. But still there’s that sense of shock and panic as you trepedatiously open the letter, the letter that will determine exactly what costume you are expected to provide.
I have worked out that there are three varieties of ‘school play parents’:
- The ones who Google their child’s part, cross reference to Amazon (other selling sites are available) put the entire outfit in their basket, hit ‘buy it now’, wait 3-5 days and boom…job done.
- The ones who make the entire costume from scratch with extra added embellishments, who can turn a bed sheet into any required role from any play ever created and who’s finesse with teatowel turbans rivals no other.
- A hybrid mix of 1 and 2; would love to go down the homemade route but lacks the skill/time/patience/enthusiasm. Costumes are part bought, part made. They sometimes look slightly muddled but they exude love.
Now, I’ve only been on the parenting side of school plays for 4 years but my experience goes back way further than that. When it comes to random school play parts I think I have it covered.
My earliest school play memory involves the rather grand title of ‘second little pig’. That’s right, I wasn’t the first daft creature who at least had the honour of meeting the wolf first, nor was I the clever third farmyard animal who used his brains, built his house, burnt the wolf and saved the day. Nope, I was the forgettable middle child of the three little pigs world.
A few years later I had a slightly more impressive role, this one involved a huge, long, complicated monologue……all directed at a poodle?!
Then of course there was the year when I put on an oscar-worthy performance as……….a carrot. (at least I’m not typecast, I guess.)
All of these though, every single one, and every other random role that you may have been subjected to will pale into insignificance when you hear the role that my brother was given for his primary school Christmas play. I would invite you to guess, but there’s a very real chance that Jools Holland would have welcomed the new year in before you even got close.
Whichever ‘school play parent’ bracket you fall into, I ask you to imagine this scenario. Your son comes home, aged 5 or 6, excitedly holding a letter informing you which starring role he has been cast in for that year’s prestigious Christmas play. You open the letter, you read the words, you read the words again. And the thought rushes through your head….
“How the hell do I tell my son that he is being a compost heap???”
But you know what, as compost heap go, he was pretty convincing!
Welcome to my world.