If you haven’t ever read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, I highly recommend it.
It starts: “The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world. They lied and stole and smoked cigars (even the girls) and talked dirty and hit little kids and cussed their teachers and took the name of the Lord in vain and set fire to Fred Shoemaker’s old broken-down toolhouse.”
For the record, my kids are not the worst kids in the history of the world. They have never, to my knowledge, smoked cigars.
However, sometimes, in my darkest moments of child-rearing, I’m afraid that I’m raising the Herdmans. Like last year, when Ian and Aden got themselves kicked out of the Christmas program at church. Or last month, when Aden played with matches in her room. Or the time that Ian stole BBQ ribs from our daycare provider (the kid has his priorities). Or last summer, when Abby, Ian and Aden decided to host a neighborhood swim party by filling our backyard playhouse with water (they were very successful, with 2 feet of water before we caught them).
As an update for the people who’ve asked, Ian and Aden successfully participated in the church Christmas program last night. They were invited by Mrs. M, the same volunteer music teacher who had to kick them out last year because they left her no alternative. Mrs. M is like Jesus because she’ll just keep taking people back no matter how naughty they used to be.
This was also the first year that my 4-year-old twins, Cai and Cael, participated in the program.
The program included 4 costume changes: Angels, Animals, Hats and Scarves. I was afraid I was going to screw it up, so I kept maniacally chanting “angels, animals, hats and scarves… angels, animals, hats and scarves…” under my breath. Fortunately, Miss Grace, who’s probably about 7 years old, noticed my distress and cued me every time I needed to change my kids. Thank God for Grace.
There were two moments that made the entire program for me — and for my mom and mother-in-law whom I caught crying together at least twice.
The first moment was from Cael, who recently found his middle fingers.
A few nights ago, Cael introduced me to his special digits by holding them boldly upright and telling me they’re “the fingerth for putting on our ringth.” I quickly showed him the correct ring fingers. Then we named all of our fingers; Pinky, Ring, Middle, Pointer, and Thumb.
Cael told me that Pinky is for sticking up when you drink tea. He said he learned that from Tinkerbell. I’m not sure when he was drinking tea with Tinkerbell, but I figure there are some things parents have no right to know.
Cai wanted me to name his fingers next. He was a little bit upset to discover that all of his fingers have the same names as Cael’s. Cai showed Pointer to Daddy and named it. Greg misheard Cai and thought he called his pointer finger Frank. I’m not sure how you get Frank from Pointer, but there it is. Cai liked Frank WAY, WAY better.
Cael thought Frank the Finger was the coolest thing he’d ever heard. He figured that since Cai had copied his fingers’ names earlier, Cael should get to copy Frank.
Cael named all of his fingers Frank. (Oh yeah, Cai? You have a finger named Frank? Well, I have TEN fingers named Frank!)
That’s how Frank the Fingers joined our family.
My finger-naming intentions had clearly gone horribly awry, so you won’t be surprised to learn that Cael’s finger fascination intensified. In recent days, we’ve had many appearances from Frank and Frank, the double-fingered flip-off… and many comments from my punny husband along the lines of “Let me be Frank with you,” and “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a…” you get the idea.
All of which has led to our conundrum. How do you get your kid to stop flipping you off without making a big deal about it?
I don’t know. We keep trying to give equal time to all the fingers hoping that will deemphasize the importance of the middle ones.
This is how well it’s working:
Remember, before I took you on our epic tour of finger naming, how we were talking about the Christmas program? And the two moments that made the entire program for me? And how I was sharing the first of those moments?
The first moment was from Cael, who brought Frank and Frank to the Christmas program.
During an entire song, Cael brought Frank and Frank out to play. Now, to be fair to Cael, he clearly didn’t mean for Frank and Frank to join us; he didn’t even seem to notice they’d arrived. But despite Cael’s intentions, Frank and Frank danced around and enjoyed the program. They kept time to the music and picked at Cael’s pants. And they never let the other fingers join in any reindeer fun.
Fortunately for our rapidly deteriorating reputation as parents, Cael had managed to place himself behind two rows of big kids. Our section of the church was the only side that saw the Franks’ performance debut.
Still, our parents were sitting in our section, which meant they had front-row seats to watch the Franks. Our dads laughed. Greg laughed. Our moms laughed until they cried. And so did I.
The second moment of the Best Christmas Pagaent Ever is brought to you by Cai.
Cai wasn’t totally sure he wanted to perform. By the second costume change, Animals, Cai dutifully donned his camel head and climbed onto the stage with the other kids.
A few seconds later, he was back with me in the pew, saying he didn’t want to do it.
I said that was fine. He could sit with me. After all, I didn’t want to be Distracting Stage Mom, shoving her unwilling kid up front.
But the next thing I knew, Cai was wiggling to get down so he could go back on stage. I also didn’t want to be the mom with the undisciplined and unruly kid who kept running back and forth, stage to pew and pew to stage for the duration of the song.
So I told Cai, “That’s fine. You can go on stage one more time. But if you go up there this time, you have to stay there.”
Cai (pictured on the left with Cael on the right) went up on stage.
He stayed on stage for the whole song.
He stayed on stage even when he got a little bored and his eyes started to glaze.
He stayed on stage even though he started to look around and wonder when it might be over.
And he stayed on stage when the song ended and all the other kids left.
I stage whispered, “You can come down now, Cai.”
Cai stayed on stage.
Mrs. M waved him off and told him he could go sit with his Mom and Dad.
Cai stayed on stage.
Eventually, I had to go on stage to rescue my child.
I explained to the audience, “I told him if he came back up here, he had to stay.”
The audience laughed. Our dads laughed. Greg laughed. Our moms laughed until they cried.
And so did I.
It was the Best Christmas Pageant Ever.