There is so much magic in the infants’ Nativity Play, from the obvious and undeniable cute factor, to the shepherd who won’t give Baby Jesus his lamb (one of them threw it through the stable window in a nativity my sister did – most amusing, especially to my 11-year-old self). Watching them in their nativities is one of the things I’ve looked forward to most, since our boys were babies.
Last year, my littlest boy was in the nursery class attached to the school, and at Christmas these tiny ones perform a selection of songs, festive and otherwise, to their parents in a little 15-minute show. When my oldest son did the same thing, he was up there loud and proud, delighted to be doing something so independent, and showing Mummy and Daddy what he could do.
I already knew that Son Number 2 was a very different kettle of fish from Number 1, who had screamed for me every day at drop-off time for the whole of his first term. Number 2, however, had gone confidently into nursery from Day One, and didn’t even look back the first time I left him there. But I was completely unprepared for his very different reaction when called upon to perform his Christmas songs last year.
He came into the hall in a crocodile of children, ready to process to the little stage and begin their recital. But as soon as he saw me, his face crumpled and he tore out of the line and across the room, flinging himself into my lap in hysterics. A big hug calmed his floods of tears, and the performance started – but nothing I, nor any of the other grown-ups, could say would persuade him off my knee and up onto the stage. Eventually, he slid down to sing Jingle Bells, but only if he could keep hold of my hand; and finally, he edged to the front of the stage to sit in front of everyone else for We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Then he leaped back into my lap and had to be prised away screaming for his return to class.
Now obviously I didn’t show him any of what I was feeling about all this, and of course I didn’t reprimand him for what was clearly an unplanned emotional reaction that he couldn’t help – but I was seriously gutted. The pride and emotion I’d felt with Number 1’s first ever performance, this important little milestone in his growth and development as a human; all of the things that I was so looking forward to experiencing again, had been whipped away – and I was so disappointed. I also couldn’t imagine how a reaction that violent could ever be addressed in time for the nativity play the following year – a much longer and more demanding performance, and the only nativity he will ever do. And even more sadly, he was so cross and disappointed with himself afterwards – but said, “I just couldn’t help it, Mummy.”
The year went by, though, as quickly as they seem to do when marked by the school calendar, and he started full time in Reception in September. At our home visit, our lovely teacher asked whether there was anything I was particularly concerned about. I mentioned the previous year’s Christmas calamity, and the wider worries I had about his emotional response to certain situations. She was very reassuring, and confident that lots could be done to help him, not just with performing, but generally in how he manages his reactions.
As December approached, we learned that he was going to play the Donkey in the nativity. He sang us all the songs at home, and practised his line: “I’m VERY tired – ee-orrr”. I talked to him about what it would be like to be on stage in front of everyone, and how excited I was to be seeing him do all these wonderful things. All seemed to be progressing well, but I still had a nagging doubt that his confidence would crumble; that we would have a repeat of last year, with the same frustrated disappointment that we both would feel afterwards.
So when the day arrived this week, I was prepared for the worst, and hoping for the best.
Out he marched with the rest of the class, and I knew this was the moment that would make or break it all.
He saw us, and beamed – then took his place on stage with everyone else.
You can’t begin to measure my pride in our little Donkey, and the pride he has in himself, for what he’s achieved – or my admiration for the work his wonderful school has done, to help nurture and grow his confidence over the last year. The magic of the nativity manifests in many ways, and for us, its greatest magic this year was the blossoming of our littlest Wonder.