Doesn’t matter if they’re naughty or nice, parents are in for it: Surviving the holiday program season

They really should have warned us.

When my husband and I were considering starting a family, someone should have pulled us aside and, with fear and trembling, told us how the birth of a child would change our Christmas season forever. The day you welcome that bundle of joy, your fate is sealed. You are headed straight for the tinsel-coated cacophony that is The Holiday Program.

The school or church or daycare that puts onThe Holiday Program  really means well. It wasn’t their intention to put the audience through an ordeal. The stress of finding a parking spot; elbowing through crowds of supportive parents and grandparents and tiny, runny-nosed siblings; powering through the inevitable, eardrum-piercing problems with the sound system … all these are incidentals. The staff are certain that despite these little setbacks, there’s nothing you’d rather be doing at the crack of dawn on a cold winter morning than watching hundreds of kids try to remember the words to “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

You find the best seat you can and settle back to watch the most impressive portion of The Holiday Program: the part where all the kids come in. Anyone who has worked with children in any capacity knows the high stakes of getting wiggly kids from point “a” to point “b” without injury, squabbles or tears. This year, my son’s school  made the wildly optimistic decision to use risers, adding the stair factor into the mix. All that was missing was the drum roll, and when the stage was at last full of more than 100 first-graders, the audience really should have given the staff a standing ovation. Just getting those children up there could have been the whole show. 

After you’ve spotted your child among the throng, you can start looking for the other highlight ofThe Holiday Program: the funny kid. You know, the one who interrupts the program by A. Yelling a message to their mom; B. Making a musical gesture too wide and smacking the kid next to them; C. Wandering off and on stage throughout the performance; D. All of the above. This kid is the best. 

Finally, the show begins and everyone in the room raises their phones over their heads, trying to get a decent video. It’s crowded. You can’t understand the words (the children clearly can’t remember most of them anyway.) The funny kid has yet to reveal himself. You wish you were home in bed. 

And then, your child spots you in the audience. His look of confusion vanishes behind an ear-to-ear smile. Joy bursts from him in a series of wiggles and waves. He sings his loudest, because he’s singing for you. 

You find yourself wiggling and waving back. When the poems and songs and dances are through, you applaud louder than anyone. You’re up on your feet, you’re bowled over. 

And you realize the staff was right: there’s nothing you’d rather be doing, there’s nowhere you’d rather be than here, cheering on your child. 

Clearly, this was The Best Holiday Program. Ever.