Friday, December 12, 2008

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever?

My eldest, Allie, the theatre-loving Auspie, finally had a successful audition and got a part in the high school play. While she was giddy over her acceptance, I was anxiety ridden.

As the parent of a special needs kid, your whole take on plays, pageants, concerts and other school productions or events is if not completely opposite of every other parent's, pretty darn close to it. While parents of "normal kids" hope their child excels and stands out from the rest, we cringe in horror, hoping our kids blend in. Every single day.

It's not that we don't value our kids for their unique differences; we just know too damn well what it's like when other people, especially other kids, notice our kids' differences.

So I wasn't some stage mom hoping my kid would be noticed; I was hoping she'd not be noticed.

Practice for the high school's production went about as expected. My daughter was nervous & exhausted -- but she managed to hold up very under the stress of change and less sleep. Allie even managed to hold up when, as expected, some bitchy 16 year old woman-child (typical for high school, mind you), walked up to my daughter and said that my daughter had no right to be in the play and that the only reason she was there was because she was a freak (I'm actually editing that; paraphrasing in a kinder way with "freak" than what was said). That woman-child gets an F for having no class. My daughter gets an A+ for class. She responded simply by talking to her teacher, the director, about it and upon hearing that she earned the spot with a good audition, she left it at that.

I'm sure there was more meanness than that. It's not that I'm being negative; I've just seen how mean other kids are. First, I grew up seeing mean kids in my own school situations. And second, I've seen how mean other kids have been to my daughter -- from day care on up. Surely the high school play posses no magical kindness dust. (If it does, I'd love to buy some.)

Ironically, the play was The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I'd never seen it or even read the book; but it's a funny story about The Herdmans, "absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world," and how one year they decide to participate in the church's Christmas pageant. (Seriously, The Herdmans have nothing on average kids who are mean to special needs kids.)

Anyway, my daughter made it through rehearsal etc., and we went as a family to see the play on family night's dress rehearsal.

The play was fantastic. Because Allie tends to be very negative, she had complained that she had a very small part. She had made it sound like she was barely in the play when she was not only in most of the scenes, her character actually had a name! That was joyful discovery number one.

The second discovery was Allie's own success. She didn't screw up a thing. She not only remembered her lines and we could hear them clearly -- no shouting either. And hey, she didn't fall down. (Isn't that everyone's fear in a play?)

But the best part was realizing that she was as composed as the rest of the cast. She didn't stand out!

Now I know there were parents there hoping their kid would steal the show, grab the spotlight, be so memorable they'd transcend their role in a magical theatre moment. (And the parents of the young woman who played Imogene Herdman, the bossy girl who asts herself as Mary in the church pageant, sure must have been!) But as a special needs parent, I dreamed of Allie just fitting in. If only for the few hours the play ran.

And she did.

That's what made this The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
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