Call me Mr. Manners, but …

We attended Finian’s preschool Christmas show last night, an event which tends to put the fear of the coming apocalypse in me. We hear a great deal about how unprepared kids are for school, but not so much about how unprepared their parents are to be — what’s the word? Not parents; all that requires is functioning body parts and reasonably cooperative DNA. Let’s settle for civilized.

The kids and their teachers spend two or three weeks working on the songs and little poems for the event. The parents get that it’s “special,” judging by all the freshly scrubbed faces and dress clothes. So the stage is set for an event. The kids last night came through like seasoned pros, with the exception of the first girl in the spoken rendition of the Christmas story, who will likely need therapy in later years to deal with the memories of suddenly losing her nerve, her voice and possibly her ability to function as a sentient being.

The audience is solely families: parents, grandparents, siblings. I’ve seen better behaved mosh pits. Apparently sitting politely is beyond the expected requirement for an audience these days; getting to the event meets the minimum requirement.

Remember from your youth the still silence of an expectant auditorium during school performances? Forget it. The new norm is talking except when your own little Suzie/Johnny (OK, these days more likely sUZi/Jawnathan) is actually performing. After all, when it’s only somebody else’s kid, well, who wants to hear somebody else’s kid singing “Jingle Bells” off-key?

And if you want to hear or see your kid, it’s now OK to stand up in the middle of the audience during the performance, blocking everybody else’s view. Presumably you or the someone in your family had a part in dressing your own starlet, so is it really necessary to stand in the fourth row and describe how cute your grandkid looks to the mother, who likely picked the outfit in the first place? Or stand through the whole thing with your video camera, recording it?

For the first part of the show there was some decorum about that, at least, with photographers lining the side walls or sitting in the center aisle so as to let the audience see what was going on. But when the littlest performers joined the stage, the rules disappeared and a group of proud parents stood front and center, blocking everybody else’s view but capturing that fleeting moment for their video archives. Sadly, yelling “Down in front,” or better yet, “Down in front, lardass,” still seems to be considered gauche.

So what’s the big deal? Consider the poor adults who have to deal with these kids all day. You can’t imagine for a second that the Little Lambs Christmas show is the only time these parents act like this. And the kids lap it up. They lap up everything parents do; why would they filter out total lack of awareness in a public place?

Before this spectacle, when I heard about kids coming to kindergarten or the first grade “not ready to learn,” the first thing I thought of was those kids whose parents don’t provide books or proper nutrition. And those kids are in our schools, but when even the well-to-do parents can’t be bothered to model basic public behavior like sitting and listening to a performance, you hate to think how much time teachers must have to spend on concepts like taking turns, respecting other children, or just listening when someone else is talking.

Angels we have heard on high … just not when they were in the Good Shepherd Christmas pageant.


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