Tonight was Big Sister’s (and Little Sister’s) big night. I am adding Little Sister because up until this morning she claimed that she would not, in fact, be participating in the Multi-cultural event tonight. But she changed her tune, picked up her stapled paper plate maraca and adorably shook her little heart out on stage to the opening act of Kindergarten’s “Me Gusta”. Big Sister, on the other hand, practiced her Zumba-like moves for weeks and capped off that study in her “hip-hop ensemble” proudly in the closing act. Between those two performances I aged about thirty years.
It wasn’t the lack of air conditioning (though it felt a tad warm) or the rolls of fat that I imagined were slowly creeping over my billowing (but fooling NO ONE) skirt that upset me – though that wasn’t helping. It was the parents.
Yes, sitting on bleacher like seating in the cafeteria as fifth graders mispronounced Nicaragua and Bolivia isn’t the most fun any of us has ever had but seriously? Stop talking to each other and texting and carrying on and changing your seats and passing the baby and allowing the toddler to stand on your lap effectively covering all but three kids on stage. At one point, a student announcer, clearly annoyed, sincerely asked “May I have your attention? Please”?! His question was met with equally sincere applause from those of us straining to hear.
Now, I get it. I missed Big Sister’s preschool Christmas pageant because I had to bolt out of the exit with a screaming toddler having a full-blown tantrum. I was in tears myself because I had been sort of cheated out of that magical moment, but quite frankly, that was my job. I did not plant my feet and refuse to attend to my helpless, shrieking baby because I somehow deserved to be there for it more than anyone else around me.
Teachers who already fight a (nearly) losing battle every day managed to muster enthusiasm and encouragement for the groups who participated in tonight’s events, spending weeks on top of the evening to coach and assist the children in their performance. There were plenty of parents who came with fixed smiles on their faces after what was surely a mad dash from work to home for a quick bite before getting the kids dressed and back to school to get on stage.
Administrators tried their best to take a more “gracious bewildered host” approach to their mounting confusion at the crowd’s lack of manners and I felt mildly embarrassed to be lumped in with the masses. A woman nearby made a big show of leaving, announcing to everyone that “her kid was done and she was leaving”. Go, but go quietly, I silently pleaded.
By the end of the week I will write letters thanking those who worked so hard on their own time to make tonight about kids and community. I spied several hardworking staff members who had yet to make it home and who I knew would leave the cafeteria tired and with a huge workload in their tote bags to contend with before reporting back in less than twelve hours. It is up to the people who see them to let them know they are seen.
I beamed with pride and laughed and cried as I sat transfixed by our little young lady who busted a move across the stage before me, swearing that only minutes ago I had held her for the first time. She hands down beat any Zumba moves I have ever attempted and her smile post-performance said more than I could ever wish for. Little Sister was asleep less than thirty minutes after we got home and Big Sister was out shortly after that. The ensemble has already been washed and will be tucked into a drawer tomorrow morning.
The students who participated in the event were just as flabbergasted by part of the crowd’s lack of courtesy as the rest of us and I can sincerely say I was glad to see that. Not that I would ever want a child to be disoriented, but I knew that meant they all knew behavior like that wasn’t expected or acceptable for them to demonstrate. The kids deserved better.