I am surpassing myself at being a curmudgeon this year.
The more Christmas activities I do, the less enthused I get about the festive season in general, and I started out less enthused than everyone else already. This is really not good news for my children, although I think they are totally surprised at how many Christmas carols I know and just how capable I am of doing the whole Christmas malarkey – should I be trapped in a festive situation with no other way out.
Today was Oscar’s school play.
And actually, despite rather dreading it, because yes, I am that mean, it was the thing that filled me most so far with what people call Christmas Spirit.
I did help a bit in the wings, mainly stopping a recalcitrant angel from picking her nose and eating it while all the parents watched. I have to say I was only partially successful due to the fact that as soon as she got out of range of my arms she had a damn good root around and a chew, but hey. I did my best.
I was thrilled to see Oscar trooping onto the stage as one of the emperor’s body guards, his busby pulled down to his chin and his pants showing as he marched up the steps. I was rather glad he didn’t manage to pull his trousers entirely down, although it would have been comedy gold.
The teachers who had thrown their heart and souls into this project were, understandably quite stressed before the event. The old adage of never working with children or animals is a sound one. Children dressed as animals counts double, and the only thing that could have made this play any more traumatic for them was the addition of a live Shetland pony in the stable scene.
Luckily we were unable to find one.
They were worried sick that everything would go wrong.
I tried to say that from a parent’s point of view this is absolutely fine. We do not mind if things go wrong. In fact, we positively welcome it.
I whole heartedly believe this is true.
If we wanted a pristine performance of the moving narrative of Christ’s entry into the world we would go and see a play in the West End, or watch something on BBC4 with Ralph Fiennes in it.
We don’t want that at all.
Nativity plays, unless you are a committed Christian with an unbelievable amount of tolerance for repetition, are on the whole, rather boring. There needs to be something to liven them up.
What we want is for our naughty, mischievous, smelly, gorgeous children to be badly dressed in an old car seat cover with a wonky head band with cardboard ears on it, looking insanely loveable and entirely themselves but with a hint of theatrical mystique.
We then want them to say or do something fairly spontaneous that will be captured forever in our memory and/or on camera in some form, and with which we can regale the rest of our family for years to come until it becomes a legend in the pantheon of family stories.
When they are forty we can still sit around the dinner table at Christmas time and say: ‘Do you remember that time Jacinta was supposed to be a shepherd but she showed everyone her pants and fell off the stage backwards into the oxen? Wasn’t that wonderful? You can hardly believe that she is a chartered accountant now can you?’
You want to say to your grand children; ‘Don’t worry. When mama was an angel her wings were very wonky too, and she forgot her lines just like you, but she was absolutely adorable. Just. Like. You.’
And it is those mistakes, and those moments where you absolutely want to laugh but you don’t, because you love them like crazy, and they are all bursting with pride and doing their very, very best to please you, even though they are making a right royal hash of it, that make it the best thing you have seen all year.
And you wouldn’t change it for perfection for the world.