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13 November 2014

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Mum's the Word!

You are in: Beds Herts and Bucks > People > Mum's the Word! > Tidings of comfort and joy...

nativity play

Nativity Play

Tidings of comfort and joy...

Home made mince pies; papier-mâché table decorations and the obligatory school nativity play - oh the joys of parenthood at Christmas!

Christmas is coming. How do I know that? Is it because of endless adverts willing me to buy a new sofa with pre-Christmas delivery, the hoards of decorations lining the aisles of supermarkets or even the ominous outbreak of diets in magazines that can claim you can lose a stone by December 25th?

Nope. It’s none of these.

I know Christmas is coming because letters that fill me with absolute horror and trepidation have started to arrive from school. Yep, you know the letters; the ones which say;

“We need more decorations/helpers/donations for the school fayre/concert/ carol service…..blah, blah, blah….. or they will not go ahead”

mince pie

PTA want your mince pies!

A note of caution Readers; an experienced school mum is always aware of such threats. What they actually mean is that you will shortly be approached by a member of the PTFA and ordered to manufacture enormous quantities of iced sponge cakes, flapjack and papier-mâché table decorations. In addition, you will be requested to stand forlornly on the door at the Christmas Fayre directing aged grannies to the nearest toilet whilst wearing flashing earrings and tinsel on your head.

In order to avoid such ritual humiliations you must be ready with an excuse or suffer excruciating jibes from veteran mums like myself. Further, you must make sure your excuse is something plausible otherwise you will also become the victim of PTFA Chief Whip and her cronies who will encircle you in the playground whilst wielding wadges of sponsorship forms (obligatory grin and bear it situation) and tickets for the Parent’s Band Night (obligatory earmuff situation.) It is not advisable to say that your husband has been airlifted by aliens and you are about to set off with a search party as the Chief Whip will not believe you. My advice is to try and come up with something that makes you sound not only hard pressed for time but charitable to the point of near martyrdom. For example, a good excuse would be on the lines of;

“Oh I’m so sorry I won’t be available for the Christmas Fayre. Unfortunately, I’m already serving soup to the homeless war veterans down at the hospice.”

(If possible omit guttural sobbing sounds for added effect.)

Home made Christmas Decorations

Would you hang these on your tree?

Of course having been a school mum for 13 years I’ve been suffering Christmas fatigue for a long time. So the thought of rummaging in my cupboards yet again for unwanted gifts for Santa’s grotto fills me with utter misery. Seriously, do you think any mum wants those mouldy old perfumed bath balls that have been sitting in my bathroom cabinet since I won them in the last year's raffle? And what about those ladder resist tights in size "small"? Is there ANY woman in the playground who could fit it to them anymore? I reckon those tights must be at least 20 years old so maybe I should be sending them in to the Antiques Roadshow for valuation. And would anyone want that forlorn copy of Russell Brand’s autobiography I got for my birthday last year which I still haven’t read? No, probably not. But hey it’s getting cold and I’ve run out of tinder.

Anyway, being an experienced school mum (read "knackered") I now just go out and buy gifts. It’s soooo much easier and if I win on the Christmas raffle there’s always the chance I'll get my own stuff back which means at least I'll get a decent bar of chocolate rather than an out-of-date box of figs. Hoorah!

But you know the worst of the school letters has yet to come this year. It’s what I call The Day of Reckoning Letter; the day when I open the book bag and pull out the letter that reads;

"Your son has been selected to play a shepherd/bystander/ passer-by in the school nativity.”

I’d just like to point out that in 13 years none of my 3 sons have EVER been selected to be the star of a nativity play. I’m not moaning (much) but for once I just want to be one of those mums laden down with a camera, camcorder and scrapbook with a horde of relatives in tow and watch one of my sons be the unmitigated superstar of the school play. The reality is that by the time of the Christmas nativity I’ve turned a subtle shade of green and for once it’s nothing to do with my cooking.

St Lucia's CE School's Nativity production

Guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye...

Okay, it’s not that my boys have never been a Joseph but they’ve never even been a donkey, a sheep or even a crocodile. It’s so unfair! By the way have you noticed how politically correct nativity plays have become? Personally, I’d object to my boys dressing up as a penguin or a rhino for a nativity but the apparently there was a huge migration of rare species to Bethlehem in the year AD along with of a small child of every conceivable race. Hmm…perhaps they got there on the back of those supersonic jet propelled donkeys.

But hey it is a magical time of year and I mustn’t be cynical. Let’s have a sing song instead…. Altogether now….

…Away in a manger no room for a bed…..The ass and the monkey found room in the shed….. The giraffe in the haystacks looked down from above… The little cute dormouse sat next to the dove…..

Anyway moving on…I like to give advice when my friends have babies (not that it's wanted but I was on the receiving end of so many old wives tales I feel it’s my duty to impart my own suitably annoying twaddle.) And my advice to all new mums is;

“Get yourself a stack of brown checked tea towels; not only will they be great for wiping dishes and soaking up projectile vomiting but you will also have an instant ready made nativity costume.”

Yes, sewing two chequered tea towels together makes an authentic nativity robe and of course if you add the finishing touch of matching head wear (another chequered tea towel) you will have the perfect costume.

Oh alright, I begrudgingly admit I’m not completely bitter about not having a budding film star on my hands because I know my two eldest children have absolutely no acting talent at all. (Mind you that didn’t stop Roger Moore becoming James Bond did it?) Now I know my boys are not potential actors because as I am undiscovered thespian. This means not only do I possess the ability to quote Shakespeare at the drop of a hat whilst wearing silly trousers and an oversized wig but I can also recognise a fellow luvvie at a 100 paces.

Unfortunately, this is something teachers are rarely able to do ( even with glasses) which is why you need to alternate between wearing a hearing aid to hear the girl who can’t speak above a whisper cast as Mary and stuffing cotton wool in your ears for the over zealous boy cast as Joseph. And as for the plastic doll cast as Baby Jesus? Come on, let’s have some realism please! Personally, I’d happily have volunteered one of my babies for a moment of brief respite whilst indulging myself in prolific photography from every conceivable angle.

I know folks, I shouldn’t complain about school nativities but all that political correctness really winds me up and, more importantly, my butt isn't designed for those little teensy weenie chairs. I'm a grown woman ( and I mean very "grown"), why oh why, do I  have to endure having one cheek precariously perched on a miniscule chair whilst watching my child dressed in tea towels and singing a song I can’t even hum?

Oh yes, and can someone please tell me what happened to the good old tunes like Silent Night, We wish you a Merry Christmas and The Holly and the Ivy? Now its politically correct tunes like….

...All around the world, la, la, la…. We celebrate this occasion la, la la… But we mustn't mention it la, la la…. Because it might offend someone, la, la la…. But I’ve got a tea towel on my head la, la la…. So everything’s alright la, la, la.

The nativity scene.

The nativity scene gives the 'ah' factor

But hey, I’m a softie so the singing usually does bring tears to my eyes. (That’s because I have sensitive ears and frankly I'd like to still be using them when I'm eighty.) But yes, I can put up with the singing; it’s the accompanying music that really gets me. No, no, no… not the monotonous strumming of guitars. (Although that is a valid point.) I’m talking about recorders …which in my opinion are akin to Janet Street Porter screeching in your ear all day.

Yuck. Seriously yuck.

Okay, I sound really anti Christmas nativity plays don't I? Well, to be absolutely truthful sometimes they really do make me feel tearful, especially as my late father was a primary school headmaster so I've sat through more than my fair share of nativities. Sometimes when I hear little voices singing it reminds of him and those days long ago when it was just Jesus, Mary and Joseph in a simple stable in Bethlehem.

Oh dear, now I feel all melancholic… However, looking on the bright side, I've not sat through anywhere near as many nativities as my mother! In fact, long after my siblings and I had flown the nest my mother was still doing her duty by my father’s side for years. (Possibly with a stiff drink beforehand.) What an absolute star!

But unfortunately, this Christmas it won’t just be my father I’ll be missing. Because last month my mother who was fit and healthy died unexpectantly from a brain haemorrhage. It was sudden, shocking and has left me deeply saddened.

My mum’s early death has brought home to me just how important being a mother really is and I don’t think there is anything that can replace a mother’s love. It’s unique.

So I guess when the times comes for the nativity this year I'll be putting on my coat, making my way to school and doing what every mother does who loves their kids; watching the school nativity.

And I may even have a tea towel on my head.

last updated: 16/04/2009 at 12:48
created: 24/11/2008

Have Your Say

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Mike French
We had and I kid you not the following ...Dear ParentsYour child will be ...a child ... in the Christmas Play. Needed: hat/scarf and own clothes.

ian pearce
some years ago I attended a nativity play where the children sang "Away from John Major" ....he was Prime Minister at the time.My son was an owl in his nativity play.

One Nativity play I had to sit through had a pint-sized Janet Street Porter singing '..angels singin' on 'igh ...', way out of tune of course. Christmas? La la la I'm not listening!

Great piece, Jane. So the notion of having lobsters and the odd octopus in a nativity scene is beginning to catch on? How astute is your recognition of the role of Chief Whip in the PTFA -- never thought of it like that, but you're spot on.

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