As I am past the stage of attending school nativity plays, it may be safe (just) for me to reflect on this hectic and stressful, yet utterly wonderful, event in the primary school calendar. I've put together my top 10, very tongue in cheek, observations of the school nativity.
1. Be prepared to jostle for position. Parents arrive extraordinarily early for the nativity show so that they can get a good seat. I have not known anyone actually camp out the night before but I wouldn't rule it out. You will be standing in a line of bedraggled parents who have left work early and braved the Christmas traffic where you will chat cheerfully enough in the pouring rain or the sub-arctic temperatures. Then the doors open and all civil conversation ends as parents turn into front row-seeking missiles. The trick here is to pretend to be nonchalant whilst positioning yourself to make a successful final dash for the front seats. If you are with a partner, it is best to split up in the queue so that you have all angles covered.
2. Some parents will not be happy. Inevitably, there will be someone who is upset by the ticketing arrangements or the admission or non-admission of younger siblings. Some schools sell tickets and others don't. Some allow younger siblings in and others don't. Whatever they do, they will not please everybody.
3. Choose your seat wisely. This is fraught with difficulties because you will be unsure of exactly where your little one will be on the stage. You want to be able to see them, obviously, but it is just as important that they can see you. I have witnessed many a distraught four year old howling because he thinks good old Mum and Dad have not bothered turning up when in fact they are just out of his line of sight. This is almost inevitable with very small kids because they are so close to the ground anyway and have probably been told to sit down which makes it even worse.
4. Claiming the prize for star of the show. Every year there is one child that 'makes' the show but you don't necessarily want it to be yours. If the star of the show has made their mark with exceptional acting or singing skills then that is great, hang around to bask in their reflected glory. If they have become infamous because they threw up or fell off the stage you may prefer to make a quick exit.
5. Casts will be decimated by disease. I have yet to see a nativity play with every member of the original cast on stage. December is the month when germs run riot in primary schools and leave the poor kids reeling. One year, I watched a Foundation phase play with over half of the cast missing and the key parts were played by uncomfortable-looking Year 6 kids clutching scripts.
6. There will be a wardrobe malfunction of some kind. Someone will have issues with their false beard, their head dress or will trip over their costume. This is often my favourite part of the show.
7. Who will play Mary? If you do not have a daughter you may not get this but Mums of girls will be with me on this one. None of my three daughters HAVE EVER played Mary in the school nativity. I am learning to come to terms with that.
8. Mary's parenting skills will be called into question. Joseph tends to stand proudly by the crib looking a bit bewildered but Mary may get the chance to actually hold baby Jesus. If she tenderly picks him up supporting the head this will be met with sighs of approval and admiration. If she grabs him by the leg or neck or, heaven forbid, drops him, she can forget earning money as a baby sitter when she is a teenager. People have long memories for this sort of thing.
9. There will be a scramble to get the costume together. Gone are the days of tea towels and dressing gowns. Today's nativities require fairly sophisticated costumes which has caused me some stress in the past because I am not that good at sewing. As your kids grow you collect a fairly impressive collection of bits and pieces and you get the hang of this just as your kids leave primary school and you don't need them anymore. If you are feeling a bit lost try your local charity shops.
10. Someone will cry and I don't mean the kids. It will definitely be me. I'm afraid the combination of Christmas stress, some lovely music and children is always going to have me reaching for the tissues. Glancing around the audience, I have never been the only one!
Read more about my thoughts on life After the Playground.