For many weeks now, a big event has been brewing. The school Christmas nativity.
Arlo’s preschool didn’t put on a Christmas performance, so this was going to be a first for the whole family.
For the past month, Arlo has been coming home from school and giving me little snippets of information about the Christmas show. He didn’t want to give much away, he didn’t want to ruin the surprise. He wanted me to see for myself on the day. But nonetheless, I was very much eager to see his debut performance as alien number 10. Not to mention discover how that storyline had managed to work it’s way into the nativity.
The day arrived. Sam, Rory, and I arrived very promptly to take our seats for the big show, along with Grandma and Uncle Chris. Arlo had quite an audience coming along to see him.
As his class walked past in a little line and took their places on the stage, there was a big beaming grin as he spotted us, and from that moment he didn’t take his eyes off me. At one point Sam laughed and said “Have you noticed how he keeps looking over to you?”
I smiled, and danced, and clapped in all the appropriate bits. I gave Arlo thumbs up and he’d respond quick as a flash with a thumbs up or an earnest head nod – he was watching for my reactions every step of the way.
He danced and sang his heart out, he delivered his (well-rehearsed) line clearly and confidently. Typically, whenever there is an event at school/preschool, or whenever the routine of the day is altered, he winds up tearful, anxious, and refusing to join in. His anxiety over routine changes and the confusion of not quite knowing his place is almost always guaranteed to become a stumbling block that he just can’t recover from, no matter how much he wants to just be able to have fun. I was holding my breath for this moment at the nativity, but it never came. He really gave his performance his all, and for that I was even more proud of him.
We had to rush off to his swimming lesson straight after the nativity. As I was helping him in the changing room, in his usual matter of fact way he said, “I’ve still got tears in my eyes”.
I was all ready to counter with my standard encouraging response for routine-change-situations, about how he’d done so well and we were all really proud, when he continued, “But it’s not because I was upset. It’s because I was so happy that you were so impressed with me. I get that sometimes”.
That’s when I realised. All of his eager head nods and thumbs up after particularly ‘important’ bits, the furtive glances in my direction, all his vigourous hands actions and hearty singing. It was all for me. He had been waiting weeks for this moment. To show me what he’d been practising. To watch my reactions. To make me proud. He enjoyed performing, but it was clear now that the main source of his excitement was being able to show me what he had been working towards all these weeks.
So, of course, I had to cancel all plans for the next day in order to attend the second showing of the school nativity. Of course I was going to go along again to see that beaming face as he spots me in the audience again. Of course I was going to clap along and return his eager thumbs up at the exact same points in the show. Of course it was going to be just as special the second time round, knowing that the most important thing to Arlo was that I was there.
Christmas when you have young children really is the best.