If your a parent of a school-age child, you probably know the last thing that’ll get you into the Christmas spirit is the annual school Christmas concert.
It’s always just a few days before the big day, there’s no where to park and sometimes no where to sit at school, parents are all dancing around getting the back of their heads in someone else’s video or picture, there are strange delays in the schedule – like unscheduled bathroom breaks, crying or a performer who won’t take the stage, tweens who take the stage and refuse to sing because they’re too cool, wardrobe malfunctions and so on.
Our annual concert was shaping up to be more of this chaos, up until the actual event. My kids were complaining about changes in words, songs and choreography for weeks. We parents weren’t really crazy about having to pull together “costumes” while making our traditional Christmas time purchases. And a new teacher was producing the show. No one knew what to expect.
We got the traditional stuff. Phones in the air blocking everyone’s view. Kids off key, words forgotten, wrong gestures at the right time, and so on. And of course, huggable little ones smiling, hamming it up and “hi Mom-ing” it from the stage, while some how forgetting the words to Frosty.
But as acts moved from kindergarten through the eighth grade (this is Catholic school), something happened. The Christmas Spirit I’ve been struggling to find for weeks showed up. The seventh grade, a class I have no children in, began to sing “Believe” from The Polar Express movie. These kids – many of whom I know personally and love dearly – began to sing about growing up into not believing. Some of the same kids who have been sewing doubt about Santa in my girls. And I began to think – the worst thing anyone can do at a time like this.
I thought of those kids on the stage, coming out of childhood into a world where they must face so much more than I ever had to at that age. How the simple fact that we outgrow Santa signifies so much more. The song wasn’t sung perfectly, the music wasn’t live, but I found myself crying as I watched one of my favorite, most active young men sing this gentlest of carols.
“Turn back!” I wanted to yell to him. “Stay young! Be a kid while you still can. Growing up only brings confusion, pain, and things that aren’t any fun!”
I began to realize my own age. My parents age. I remembered that this year, I have one major Santa skeptic, and one true believer. And I began to think about my own waning belief that there are decent people still in the world. And I realized that I want to be one of those good people.
And then, I knew what I wanted for Christmas. I want the patience, wisdom and understanding to love those I’d rather not. The courage to stop hiding from other people because I don’t want pain, rejection and pushback.
At the end of the show, all of the kids sang “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” So simple. Yet so meaningful in our day.
Those children. At one of those chaotic concerts. You’ve taught my heart to sing. And helped me find the real spirit of Christmas. Thank you.