Childrearing

Don’t Hurt Me: I’m Skipping My Child’s Holiday Concert This Year

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christmas concert schoolThis year, I’m missing my daughter’s holiday concert at her school. Wait! Before you judge, so is she. We somehow booked our travels a little earlier than her school let out. But I digress. I’m not sure if I’m sad or completely and utterly relieved that I’m missing this concert.

I remember one of my friends asking me a couple years ago how my daughter’s holiday concert went. “Brutal,” I answered. “It was brutal.” And, sorry, it was. I still think I can hear the sounds of screeching recorders in my ear and the off-key sounds of the violin.

Part of the problem with school concerts (at least at my daughter’s old school) is that they did their performances from the lower grade up. The first couple of years, I sat through, from Junior Kindergarten to seventh grade, trying not to look at my Blackberry. Of course, this was only AFTER my daughter performed. Maybe some parents get off watching children who are not their own screech their way through Christmas carols. I am not one of those mothers. I’m more like, “I’ve come to see my daughter perform. I’ve seen, now I want to go.”

And, no, I won’t take offense if you arrive late and miss my daughter performing. I totally get it. One of my friends says she always leaves school concerts early: “I choose a seat at the back, so I can get out of there right after I see my son and his class.” So if teachers, who I know work hard to put on these concerts, want to ensure all parents stay for the whole thing – and two hours is long enough – then they should space out the grades, mix it up a little, have the sixth-graders start, then have the third-graders perform, and then throw in the Junior Kindergartens, and then go back to fifth-graders. Surprise us! Because, honestly, after watching my daughter and knowing she’s done, I’m just reading the program, counting down the rest of the grades, wondering where the nearest McDonald’s is.

Second, unless it is YOUR child playing the recorder, it sounds like cats being murdered. Or unless your child goes to an arts school, one in which they had to audition to get into, very rarely is any child good at the recorder (or at any instrument they force you to play in school). Speaking of which, seriously, the recorder? Still? I get it’s a cheap instrument and sounds come out of it, but I do not know one adult who plays the recorder. So, yes, most of the time when I hear holiday concerts I’m thinking, That sounds like “Here comes Santa Claus” but for all I know it could be “It’s going to be a very white Christmas.”

The most entertaining children to me are the ones who just stand there with their class on stage and do absolutely nothing, while their parents in the audience try manically to mime at them and get them to sing and do the hand movements. I find those kids and parents pretty entertaining, along with the nose pickers, who make me laugh.

Now, before I sound too much like scrooge, I would say these things about any school performance. Especially when your child is young. And, yet, there I am, showing up early to get the best seats, with a video camera AND a digital camera, clapping as hard as if I’ve just seen Les Miserables.

I recently saw my daughter in a school play where she had a small role. As I watched, I was mortified. Yes, I clapped and cheered, but I was mortified. Children missed their lines, they missed their marks, the singing was mostly off-key, and they had practiced this play for two hours a day for weeks.

“How was it?” my friend asked when I got home. “Well, it was pretty much…a school play,” I sighed. I didn’t want to say that, I really didn’t, but I just couldn’t get up for lying and professing, “It was fantastic!” However, I did think about why I hate school performances so much and, well, maybe I haven’t been thinking clearly. Yes, the students often suck. Yes, I do wonder why they don’t get them to practice three songs and make them really good, as opposed to 18 songs that are painful at worst and mediocre at best. Yes, I wonder why they don’t shake it up a bit, throw on some pre-recorded songs performed by professionals, and let the kids learn a dance routine or something.

But then I realized that although these concerts are for the parents, they really aren’t. My daughter got such a kick out of being part of a performance. She loved the bond it brought with her classmates at rehearsals. And she loved being on stage. So now I’m not as against school concerts or plays as I once was. Yes, I may still think they are brutal, but I like them because my daughter likes being in them, which is good enough for me.

(Photo: iStockphoto)

19 Comments

  1. Jen

    December 9, 2011 at 10:49 am

    I think it must be a Christmas/Hanukkah miracle! I actually agree with you, Rebecca. Even as a kid I HATED sitting through the performances of others and as an adult I find them mind numbingly boring (I actually like the kids who go completely all out and are also completely off rhythm/don’t know the words better than the do nothings, though). And I think you are right. Performances are for the kids, not the parents. And as a parent you get excited and thrilled to see your child perform and you suffer through everything else because you know how happy it’s making your kid. This was funny and entertaining and I’m pretty sure anyone who’s ever sat through a kids’ holiday concert would have to agree with your basic message.

    • Steph

      December 10, 2011 at 9:02 pm

      Naw, don’t you just love that time of year when everyone forgets their differences and sits down together to complain about the painfulness of school concerts? Bless.

  2. Jane

    December 9, 2011 at 10:58 am

    The selfishness. A concert is not just to entertain the parents.

    A concert is to give students a goal to work towards, to encourage them to practice and perfect their performance, and then to experience performing something they worked hard on in front of an audience. That is a vaulable life experience, not something fluffy. Kids need to see that working on something pays off and that adults support this.

    It can be upsetting for the last group of kids to come out to a nearly-empty audience, or to watch adults leave. Plus, it’s disruptive.

    Nice example you set for your kid. “I am allowed to be rude if I find something boring”. It’s not about offending other parents, it’s about being part of a community of kids, parents and teachers and showing support for their work.

    it’s like, two hours out of your entire year, tops. Forget about yourself for a few minutes.

    Our schools used to have a ‘finale’ where the whole school performed. The reason? To keep parents from leaving after their kid performed. Pretty sad.

    • NotThumper

      December 9, 2011 at 12:07 pm

      I agree with you Jane, but I also agree with Rebecca, just not the way she went about it. I think this is one of those situations where you keep how you REALLY feel to yourself. I can think of lots of instances where how I react and how I’d like to react are completely different.

    • Jen

      December 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm

      NotThumper: But she’s not expressing her hatred for these things to her daughter nor is she doing anything to prevent her daughter from participating despite how much she dislikes going. As a parent I think it’s really important to be able to voice these sorts of frustrations, so long as you make sure your kid or someone else who will be hurt by you letting it out is within hearing. I mean, you wouldn’t argue that it’s not ok for two coworkers to bitch about a work assignment, so long as their boss wasn’t in hearing distance, right? It’s the same principle really.

    • NotThumper

      December 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm

      The article mentions her speaking with a friend which is why I said what I did. If you think it is ok to air these types of frustrations, whether it be a child’s school performance or a work assignment just be damn sure the kid or the boss isn’t around to hear it.
      As my name applies, I’m not exactly adverse to speaking my mind even if it hurts someone’s feelings. I just make sure it isn’t going to hurt a child (mine or anyone else’s) or come back to bite me in the ass (like bitching to a coworker and having the boss hear…)

  3. RighttoWorkMom

    December 9, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I was not at all surprised to see who the author was, but I was surprised to see Jen agree with her! And by the way, I agree with both of you.

    Rebecca, I really hope people receive your article nicely this week because a)I’m tired of watching the hateful messages on so many articles on this site and b)you are absolutely right! It’s not just Christmas concerts either. Dance recitals, piano recitals, it’s all the same. I’ll go. I’ll stay the whole time (I don’t really agree with showing up late or leaving early). I’ll applaud your kid and mine, but I’ll be replaying scenes from Pulp Fiction in my head the entire time.

    • Jen

      December 9, 2011 at 11:39 am

      I am 100% willing to admit when I think Rebecca is correct, otherwise it wouldn’t be fair for me to criticize her so often. And for the record, I do think ducking out ahead of time or showing up late is rude, but I also totally zone out.

  4. xobolaji

    December 9, 2011 at 11:48 am

    KUDOS! i was so itching to write this article, but you beat me to it! can i tell you, i think that you expressed the sentiment of *most* if not all parents. and truth be told, the feeling of “omg, this again” usually strikes after you’ve “endured” several performances. yes, in the beginning kids’ concerts are totally adorable, and yes, as a parent what you want most to do is see your kid perform and then jet. last year, my huzza and i sat fidgeting in our seats for the last hour of the concert when our daughter and her classmates were no longer on stage. it was painful. looking around i saw the look on the other parents faces too, and many of us surpressed knowing smiles, like, ‘wow you too? isn’t this perfectly awful?!”

    of course we all mean well. and the effort that the students and teachers put into this little production is amazing. however, i think there has to be a “better” way. like maybe concerts should last no longer than an hour. or maybe serve the parents cocktails? i kid. SOMETHING!

  5. rebecca

    December 9, 2011 at 11:52 am

    It MUST be a Christmas/Hanukkah miracle! 🙂

  6. Zorbs

    December 9, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I am a music teacher and I hate the recitals just as much as the parents.

    Either don’t go, or if you do..stay till the end. It’s 2 hours out of your life, suck it up. Leaving mid performance, or TALKING during the entire performance is just plain rude.

  7. Dee

    December 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Miracles all around, then, because I actually found this amusing– and agree with it. I think I owe my parents an awesome Christmas gift this year for putting up with the chorus crap I did when I was a kid. Perhaps cocktails prior to their grandchildren’s school performances, just to take the edge off.

  8. Emily

    December 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    I feel your pain (occasionally, literally). If you’re skipping the concert, so be it. Kind of a bummer for your kid to spend all fall practicing and then not having the concert, but hey, maybe you’re doing something else awesome that will be just as rewarding for her. If you’re there, though, it’s totally rude to walk out after your child’s performance, or to check your Blackberry. That is true if you’re at Main St. Elementary or the Met.

  9. Meaghan

    December 10, 2011 at 1:47 am

    I completely agree with your feelings on school concerts. I don’t care about any other children other than my own. Not even a little. However, I suffer through it because it results in me seeing my child perform. And every other parent in the room is doing the same thing. Holiday shows are a beautiful/unbearable thing, and if you can’t suffer through the horror of listening to other kids sing to hear your own, then God bless you. I wish that was my biggest problem.

  10. Wendy Tarpley

    December 10, 2011 at 6:02 am

    My mother and father never made it to any of my school shows or plays because they were working during the day. I can’t say that I feel all that deprived, to be honest.

  11. Lisa

    December 10, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    I am an adult who plays the recorder!

    • Sara

      July 29, 2012 at 8:48 pm

      The recorder has been around for a long time–it was just re-popularized for use in public schools by Carl Orff because it’s fairly easy for kids with developing motor skills. But there’s a vast repertoire of recorder music (mostly from the Baroque period and earlier) and I know a lot of adults, like myself and my husband, who get a great deal of joy from both playing and listening to the recorder. By the way, the $2 plastic dealies are just used in schools. Professionals play handcrafted wooden recorders, which come in several sizes and registers and actually require a great deal of skill and training to play well.

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