Jacelyn's school Christmas program was last Thursday. She was pretty much over it by Tuesday or Wednesday, saying at one point, "All we do is sing, sing, sing!", followed by a scoff beyond her years. The big day arrived, and Brian, who came into town solely to watch her in the program, picked her up from school. Instead of following my suggestion and putting her down for a nap in between school and program time, he took her to waffle house, where she ate an entire waffle and a bunch of bacon. The child loves bacon - and who doesn't? Bacon is meat candy. And then they ran errands, and messed around with his car outside.
I left work early and met up with everyone at the house. Brian and Jacelyn were still cleaning his car. Jacelyn's method of car cleaning involves spraying whatever product she can get her hands on, whether wax or cleaner, onto whatever she can reach, and then showing her father: "Look daddy! I'm helping!". Brian then has a mini-stroke because she has sprayed tire cleaner or some other inappropriate substance onto the painted finish. They go back and forth: spray, stroke, wipe; spray, stroke, wipe. There's lots of yelling involved. From Brian: "Baby!" and "Stop, put that down!", and from Jacelyn, "I'm helping! I'm just helping!". It would be amusing, if it wasn't so frustrating.
I told her to come inside and get dressed, and was met with great and whiny resistance: "I have already been to school, and I don't want to go back". Sigh. I finally convince her to change into her pajamas, and she spends the next half hour running around, crazed, hopped up on syrup, bacon, and lack of nap. I would occasionally catch her while she was making laps around the living room and explain how she needed to be good, to behave, to in fact be on her very best behavior. She would nod and break free, and I would send up a little prayer: please let this go well.
Brian was sleepy and decided he didn't want to be there early, that he would ride with his mother and father. Michelle came with Jacelyn and I. I made sure she went to the bathroom, and we left. Jacelyn was singing loudly in the car, something I later found to be greatly ironic. We got to school and faced a parking melee: everyone was there early. We dropped Jacelyn off with the other K4 and K5 kids. The room was insane: little children clad in pajamas running around, screaming at the top of their lungs, bumping into and off of each other. I gratefully escaped the classroom and Michelle and I went to find seats.
The only available seating was in the very back row. We sat on either side of the four additional seats we would need, and then Michelle went outside to wait for the rest of the family.I was left to apologize to the elderly and infirm who wanted to sit there. Sister Patricia, the school principal, made an announcement about how many children were out sick (30 out of about 167), that there were only 5 children in second grade that day, and how we needed to give the kids a standing ovation for their hard work. The rest of the Bernardos arrived, and we anxiously awaited the start of the program.
The second through eighth grade filed onstage, taking their place on the high risers at the back of the stage. I was somewhat relieved to see the older kids up there; I had already pictured children falling like dominoes if the pre-k and kindergarteners were up top. Giggling quietly, I leaned over to Brian and pointed out a kid who had on pink shorts and a limey-neon green polo shirt - "What, is he golfing?" I asked. Brian pointed out that they were kids and I was being mean. Thoroughly chastened, I settled in to watch. Where are the little kids? I wondered. The older grades opened the show with a rousing number, "Our Promised King is Born". Bad skit from three eighth graders, another number. I saw a door open and short little heads bopping around, but it turned out to be the first graders filing in. Cute, yes. Downright adorable. But not my kid. Where is my kid?
The first graders sang a song by themselves, and despite their lesser numbers, around 15 of them, were louder than the rest of the school combined. I guess they haven't learned to be self-conscious yet, bless them. Another bad skit, Mary and Joseph enter (tripping over the spotlight stand and almost dropping baby Jesus). More singing, more bad acting, some angels wrapped in silver garland who, for some reason, stood very still making jazz hands for the duration of another song. Where's the little ones?
Finally, during 'Away in a Manger', the door opens and in they file. The K4 and K5 kids. So very, very cute. They filed onto stage and were seated in front of the first graders, on either side of the stage. My eyes teared, as I watched Jacelyn sitting on stage. She looked angelic, resplendent, even, in shiny blue owl pajamas ('Whoooo's Up Late?' the pajamas pondered) and fuzzy blue slippers, her pigtails hanging down in ringlets, cheeks flushed with excitement, my daughter, by baby, was gorgeous. How did I manage to have such an attractive child? If I hadn't spent nine and a half months feeling her tap dance on my insides, I would question whether or not she was mine.
New song, joined by the 4 and 5 year olds. It was great - you kept hearing those one or two kids who held a note too long or started too soon. Jacelyn sang her heart out on that first number. End of song, beginning of another skit, Jacelyn gets restless. A wise man comes down the center aisle, and Jacelyn turns to watch him carry his gift to Jesus, choosing this moment, her head in profile, to pick her nose. She picks and stares, picks and stares. Her curiosity momentarily sated, she turns back to the front. A little more nasal digging and she peers at her finger, checking out whatever she might have hooked, then looks around and, finding no better receptacle for her nose gold, wipes her hand on her pajamas. I was amused but basically unconcerned. She's 4. They do that.
Then it really went downhill. She stopped singing, except for the occasional chorus. She started pulling at her lower lip, a compulsive-type of behavior I had noticed before, but it really stood out when she did it for the better part of twenty minutes or so. At one point she leaned over and lightly popped the hand of a neighboring classmate, much to my horror. She spent two minutes with her hands over her ears, scowling like an angry monkey. Two minutes is an eternity, by the way, when your child is misbehaving in a very public manner and you can't get to them to stop the bad behavior. I was sitting on the edge of my seat, vehemently whispering, "Stop it! Stop stop stop!". Brian had crossed his arms and was bouncing his leg. The bouncing started with the hand pop, and continued for the rest of the performance.
I don't remember the music (except for the really bad soloists on 'O Holy Night'), I don't remember anything. All I remember is how my sweet daughter turned into a horror. She started waving to random people, waving and making a very ridiculous face. Anytime the spotlight got near her, she acted as though she had been blinded. She would wince, and cover her eyes, and then put a hand to her forehead and squint dramatically at the crowd. She turned around and started talking to the children behind her. This prompted me to again attempt mother-daughter telepathy: "STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT NOW". It didn't work. She continued talking, and when the child she was talking to shushed her, she turned around the other way and started talking to someone else. I was aghast. Her actions were magnified by the fact that the other children around her were acting like angels. Even the kids who I hear about in the car on the way home: "Emily pushed Arianna" and "Mitch said a bad word" and "Arianna had to go see Sister because she hit Fisher and made him cry", even those kids were really good.
Finally, after a dramatic ending, it was over. I was exhausted. After a lengthy standing ovation, Sister dismissed the K4 and K5 parents to go get their children. I marched grimly to the classroom, Brian running after me, asking over and over, "What are we going to do? What are we going to say?". I didn't know, but I wanted to get to her.
In the end we talked to her about it, mostly on the ride home. We made certain that she knew that we were proud of her for taking part in the program, that it was fun to see her doing something so neat, but we also talked to her about her behavior. Here's hoping she learned something. In her defense, she was sick of it anyway, and she had not had a nap that day. And she's 4. But that doesn't completely excuse blantant misbehavior. Oh well; we've got a year until the next one, we can work on it.