The kid with the viola was pretty good

Last night I went to Sam’s Winter Concert. In this neighbourhood, The kids go to a tiny (280 students) school for JK-6, then a larger school down the street for 7 and 8, then High School for the remainder. That middle school goes from JK to 8….though my kids only go there for two years. Sam is in grade 8, moving on to high school at the end of this year, and so it hit me last night as I sat there in the school gym… the aroma of desperate parent all around me….This is the last one. This is the last time that I will sit in an elementary school and wait for my kid to get up and sing or dance or do any of it. The very last time.

I sat there there knitting (oh…I’m making argyles.)


I thought about that. It turns out that I lack the mathematical facility to tell you how many of these I have been to, but I think it’s a lot. There were the years that it was just Amanda. Her up on the stage, me in the audience with a toddler and a baby, trying to juggle both of them while still waving up at my oldest. A few years later Meg joined Amanda up there, and except for the toddler I had with me, those were the really neat years. Then Amanda went on to middle school and Sam started elementary, then Amanda went on to High School, Meg was in middle school and Sam was in elementary and those my friends…those were the killer years. Three concerts per season. It was during that difficult time that Joe first began calculating how many more we had to do. While the high school band played or the middle school choir sang or the elementary school teacher tried desperately to herd grade ones in and out like unruly sheep, Joe would sum it up. “22 more!” he would whisper conspiratorially, as I tried to appreciate the somewhat melodic strains of…..well. I actually couldn’t tell what song it was, but that’s hardly the point.

Back then, with the holidays being what they are and life with kids being what it is, getting out the door to three concerts was a big deal. A very big deal. (Actually, life with three little kids being what it is, trying to get your hair brushed by lunchtime was a big deal.) We did it though. Every single one. I have heard “must be Santa” so many times in my life that I feel confident I could perform it. I have developed some sort of coping mechanism for the stunning auditory experience that is a middle school string section. (Mostly, instead of trying to listen I spend that four minutes staring at the teacher and trying to figure out how that is anyone’s job. They are Saints. Heros. Demi-gods of decency. Last night Ken said that if he taught instrumental music he would cry at work. I told him that I wouldn’t cry where the kids would see me, but I might nibble borax sticks in my office after hours. I have no idea what sort of love for children you have to have to do that, for whatever it is, I do not possess it. The squeaky squawking, bleating noise that is the sound of people learning to play instruments is far more than I could bear for six hours a day.) For fourteen years, I have (band pain aside) sat there at least once every holiday season.


(Actually, I did sort of miss one. Sam was a toddler and everyone with kids has been that mother who had to remove her kid from the gym because they threw a fit when you insisted that it was the Choir leaders turn to play the piano and they really didn’t need any help and your toddler, barely holding it together after the piano disappointment, decided the secondary activity should be lying on the floor licking the road salt off of the boots of strangers, and when you saw them doing that you threw up in your mouth a bit and then had to leave with your thrashing, wailing kid under your arm because it turns out that LITERAL boot licking is the only thing that they want to do, and when you picked them up off the floor and gently tried to distract them from that unspeakable activity, the kid had a meltdown that made a failed nuclear reactor look like a small problem, so you flee to the hall way. Then you’re there. Sitting in the hall outside the gym, listening to the concert going on without you and you think “Wow. Nobody else is in the hall with a boot licking toddler” and suddenly it hits you…this mothering thing is not going to work out because you suck and your kids a freak? I know you have had that day. My day was Tuesday December 17th, 1996. I will never forget it. )

Fourteen years. Bad music, little bands (it’s funny how much better the bands were the years my girls were in them.) choirs of angelic cherubs wandering in and out…at the time I thought it was pretty tedious. At the time…I watched the clock and wondered when it would end and sat there knitting and consulting the program eight hundred times to see how many songs there were left. At the time, the only part I liked was when my kids were on stage, when I would stand up and wave and call their name out…and then my kid would look over at me and I could tell, when they finally found me in the ocean of mums and dads, that they were both embarrassed at their dorky mum waving around knitting and beaming up at them….and that they were thrilled and proud to be on stage. (I always loved that conversation after the concert. “Did you see me? Did you see me singing?” )

Fourteen years of counting it down. Last night though…. four more.

Four more, and they are all High School Concerts. No more kindergarteners singing “Must be Santa”. No more grade fours forgetting the words to “What a wonderful world”. No more of the parents with camcorders rushing up to the stage with a tripod and a big plan. No more of that wee girl in a darling red dress who’s standing and singing in the front row – who then hikes up her skirt and scratches her bum in front of everyone. No more.


As I sat there last night waiting for my turn to stand up and wave at Sam in the choir, it turns out that I think I’m going to miss it. My kids are big now, and we’ll go to concerts where the band is pretty good, the choirs are impressive, the string players also belong to orchestras and none of the boys pick their noses in front of everybody during the last song. (Or at least if they do, you hope your daughter isn’t dating them.) I couldn’t believe it. Miss it? All these years I’ve thought that I just could not wait. That I would embrace the new phases my kids went through and I would never feel melancholy for years gone by…and suddenly, last night, sitting there on a crappy chair in that funny smelling auditorium, uncomfortable, squashed, watching a toddler (probably thinking about licking something) wander up and down the aisle, listening to the worst ever rendition of …..well. I still can’t tell what song it’s supposed to be…and I looked around and thought, wow. My kids are growing and I’ll never sit at an elementary school concert again…and then I thought the unthinkable.

I wonder if the school would let me come back….


Just to watch the grade ones.

306 thoughts on “The kid with the viola was pretty good

  1. Ah… can’t wait till I’m doing that with my little one! (the concerts, not the boot-licking, although I wouldn’t put that past her either).
    Lovely argylls!

  2. I still remember singing “All I Want for Christmas” when I was in Grade 1. It seems strange that I will soon be listening to my daughter sing the same song.

  3. I too am in awe of band/chorus elementary teachers. I only hope that they wear ear plugs half the time.
    My 4th grade son had his first band concert ever on Monday (he plays the trombone, first chair even!). My eyes did tear up a bit and then I looked at his 4 younger siblings fighting over seats and realized I have a lot more of them to go through. A bit sobering…

  4. My son’s concert was this past Tuesday. His music instructor gets back at the parents for having children in the first place by having the kids play kazoos during the concert. Kazoos!

  5. I love teaching instrumental music. My only problem is that I don’t have a job doing that right now. *sniff*

  6. Urgh….I’m glad to know I’m not the only one waxxing all nostalgic about the ‘never agains’ of these little monkeys growing up on us. Also – I am really jealous that when your three were little – you were ‘together’ enough to remember to brush your hair. I’ve resorted to a tam in the winter and a bandana in the summer. I may have forgotten, entirely, what my hair ACTUALLY looks like!

  7. Mother Nature threw in a snow storm and saved us from having to split up in order to have a parent at both Christmas concerts scheduled on the same night. I do miss the elementary school concerts though. Thanks for bringing back all those fun memories.

  8. Yes, they’ll let us come back – this is my first year in the last 14 w/out an elementary or middle school concert – because we’ll get to be the proud grandmas in the front rows one of these days!

  9. Dont forget that someday you will be the grandma in the audience! You may have hundreds more in your future!

  10. Ah, you’ve begun the lasts. It spirals fast from here, but is it up or down? I still haven’t decided. I suggest you take a break from the grade ones for a while. All too soon, it’s the grandkids you’re going to video!

  11. Dang it, I have this firm rule to not cry at work, and you got me to cry at work. Partly because my son is in preschool and we have already had to sit through 3 of these, they have the BABIES do something at his daycare. Partly because tonight is my night of fun and this is his last one with these friends and this group of kids. Partly that the time goes by so very fast and I can’t seem to slow it down enough to enjoy it.

  12. Just think about what the first rehearsal of the school year must have been like for the teacher! What you’re hearing is actual progress. (At least that’s what I remind myself over and over again when one of my voice or piano students clearly hasn’t practiced at all. Again.)
    Love the argyles!

  13. Cheer up, you will eventually get to go through it all again with your grandchildren. In the meantime, you can do what my mom did. Seeing no immediate prospects of grandchildren on the horizon (and being too far away to go to the concerts and plays of my almost-stepkids), she started “adopting” the children of neighbors and friends’ children. I am forever hearing about what little so-and-so did at the concert. πŸ™‚

  14. Never say never, Steph. Twice now, I’ve sat in a room and thought, “This will be my last preschool Christmas concert ever.” Then we adopted our daughter. Now we’re adopting another. It looks as though there will be still another round of concerts in our future.
    I’ve now reached the point where I pack my knitting, focus on relaxing, and pray that no one passes out (which happened at one concert a couple of years ago!)

  15. The concert featuring my 14 year old clarinetist is next week. And though we will definitely be there, it’s the concert at her old school, featuring kindergarten and grade one’s singing Christmas carols (and waving at the audience and poking the kid beside them), is the one I’m really looking forward to!! Go back next year!!

  16. This post had me laughing and crying, all in span of a few minutes – excellent.
    May God bless you for going. My parents never made it to one, and I’ll never forget the disappointment of looking in the audience every year and never seeing a familiar face. Or when friends would say “where’s your mom/dad?” and I’d have to tell them they weren’t there. Or the envy when other parents would come to the classroom after and tell their kids how great they were. Even though I knew they were lying, I still wished someone would lie to me.
    I’m SO looking forward to the calendar and the new book! Maybe some of us could band together – start a petition to put off Christmas until you get your projects finished or something. πŸ™‚

  17. Oh and I always thought it was the proudest moment of a parent’s year, seeing their littl’un up there on the stage. Stephanie, you have spoiled all my illusions.
    I am impressed with your argyle socks. I have only ever seen patterns where the other square was duplicate-stitched on at the end, but clearly you are doing yours at the same time, how does that work?

  18. Just the thought of “Must Be Santa” makes me want to cry. I used to love that song. And “Do You Hear What I Here” too.
    Oh no! It’s happening. That especially magic time when hormones and Christmas collide. It’s gonna be a tear-jerker. Thanks for starting it off right!

  19. I just laughed, and then cried a little. (Gosh the holidays make us emotional don’t they?) Because I didn’t realize we all feel the same way about these things… the band sounds better when its our wee ones up there, the grade ones are always cute, no matter how many times you look at the program it doesn’t speed up the performance. But its a part of what our families are made up of.
    Did you see me mom? yep, I did.

  20. Hilarious! I just went to my boyfriends kids christmas concert last week. His 6yr old son literally leapt from the stage into the audience during his class’ song. Kids do the most surprising things sometimes. Too funny when looked at from a distance of a few years, but exceptionally surprising and shocking at the time. lol

  21. I am one of those elementary band and chorus teachers, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this piece. It’s not often that I am referred to as a possible Saint, Hero, or Demi-god. Usually I get the “guess how awful MY music teacher was” story when I mention what I do. I’ve considered answering “lion tamer” when people ask. But seriously, today’s piece means a lot to me. Especially because we had our concert last night; I teach in a small, close-knit school and can count on several sets of brothers and sisters moving through the ranks. It’s poignant to see families “age out” and go on to middle school.
    And those beginning instrument kids? The first three weeks are the worst. After that, it gets better fast (or perhaps I lower my expectations even faster ;-).

  22. Never fear…you’ll be there again…watching your grandkids! All of the fun and none of the hassel!

  23. My mother raised 12 children, 6 biological and 6 fosters. There’s 16 years between the eldest and youngest. When my youngest sister started 1st grade, my daughter was born.
    I’m the eldest at 46. My mother has been doing elementary school concerts for 41 years with no break.

  24. How, how, HOW do you manage to write such a lovely, thoughtful, funny, sniffles-inducing blog when you’re so admittedly overwhelmed with Xmas knitting, baking, decorating, etc? This is why I love you, Stephanie. I may be just a dilletante knitter, but that I am a knitter at all is owed directly to you. Thanks for your sweet, touching thoughts.
    Jemma Boyle
    Arlington, MA, US

  25. I thought I was finished now that my youngest is in college, but my sister’s kids are still pageant-ing away. In a weak moment I agreed to drive 183 miles over snowy roads to attend double pageantry last weekend. Now I have gone and set a precedent. Six more years ahead. sigh.

  26. My daughter’s holiday concert was last night, too! Got to see her (front and center!) and her fellow second graders dancing to “Santa’s Gonna Rock & Roll” and the kindergarteners and first graders in their JAMMIES doing “Zat You Santa Claus?” – just adorable. This after possibly the worst rendition I’ve ever heard of music from The Nutcracker. Somewhere, Stradivarius wept. But then the talented seventh and eighth grade dance ensembles took the stage! I wouldn’t have missed it. I am in awe of the teachers who put it together, and in awe of the talented children my daughter is privileged to go to school with!
    To those parents who never went to their children’s concerts: What were you thinking?! May you be pelted with burnt Xmas cookies!

  27. Aww, don’t worry…I bet you’ll have grandkids’ concerts to attend one day! I can’t wait to see the argyles finished – they look great! =)

  28. My youngest child graduated from high school last June. This is the first time in 20 years that I don’t have a concert. I remember feeling the melancholy as I sat in the bleachers for graduation. It’s the passing of an era.

  29. I am just starting out on this journey. My 1st grader told me this morning that he has a solo in the holiday concert next week. Squee!

  30. Sounds like you’re just like my mom — the best mom in the world. She and my dad sat through those concerts from K-9, and though I’m sure it wasn’t always pleasant sounding, they came every year. And yes, we do remember seeing you in the audience and though we may have been embarassed at the time, our lives would have been far worse had you not come to support us. I know I never told my mom, or dad, thank you enough for that, but I think they know. I hope you realize that your daughters are very thankful you came every year, and though children don’t always tell their parents this, we’re proud of you too.
    After all, just mere mortals wouldn’t sit through those concerts.

  31. Next Tuesday will be my son’s last holiday concert, as he is a senoir this year and my only child. I will be the one weeping in the back.

  32. Oh no, it won’t be your last one, next time you get to go as Grandma! It will be a while, but won’t that be fun – then you won’t have to worry about crying kids etc. because that will be your daughter’s responsibility. You get to do just the enjoyment part. (Or so I’ve been told – and observed – my son is in college now, we consider ourselves on a break now, one of these days we’ll be back to the concerts and graduations.) Also…nice argyle sock! Does this mean you finished the other pair, and are now back (or close to being) on track? I hope so!

  33. This post made me tear up. My little guy is still too young for concerts, but they will come all too soon.
    However, I would like to remind you of grandchildren. Someday, you are likely to have them, and it will be your little grandbaby up there scratching her bum or picking her nose, and it will be made all the better because you know that little cherub singing is also wreaking karmic retribution on her mother for those teenage years.

  34. My son is in 8th grade and is in the Choir, He has been singing (well I might add-not just mother’s predudice here either)since he was in elementary in any concert he can! He usu has atleast 1 solo, sometimes more if he can. He lives with his dad about 60 or so miles from here but my mom, hubby and I amke it to every concert/play. The only one we missed was because his dad gave us the wrong information and then lied to my son telling him that we knew what time to be there. But thats another story πŸ™‚ Anyways I cant wait to hear him sing in the Spring Concert and in his Schools production of Wizard of Oz (hes the Scarecrow)!

  35. That was me with the 6 year old at the Middle School Concert. The 6 year old who sat through 2 performances of the Middle School Play quoting lines would not even go into the auditorium once he realized there was going to be music! (Smart kid) Fortunately I had brought coloring books! Half way through the concert, one of his good friends appeared under the arm of his irate mother, and we tag-teamed each other so we could go in to see our respective Middle School-ers performances! Fortunately they were in different band/choir/orchestras! The blessing is that Elementary concerts don’t start until 3rd grade!

  36. Oh, Stephanie! Just wait a tiny while, and guess what?! GRANDKIDS!!!! It starts all over again, and this time, it is fun!

  37. My eldest is in her first “Peace Celebration” next week in her class of 3, 4 and 5 year olds. I’m STOKED! This is likely the naiveity of the uninitiated though, right?

  38. Ooooh, I’m all teary now. Tonight is my 9 year old’s choir concert, next Wed. the kindergartner’s, then in 2 years the last kindergartner’s. All day I’ve been dreading the getting ready thing for tonight, among all the other stress of this time of year. Thanks for putting it in perspective for me- I will now thoroughly enjoy it (and blubber through my baby girl’s first show in big kid choir).
    Wishing all less stress!

  39. I only missed one and deputised my mom and husband to go. I missed a prize, seeing my son dressed up in a chicken suit. You didn’t mention the theater performances. Did you not get to see your kids in plays? Even weirder than the concerts.

  40. I’ve wept and laughed my way through many a performance, mostly happily, with my kids. Now it’s granddaughters’ graduations from preschool and kindergarten and school concerts and piano recitals. We even moved closer so we could get there more easily! In my day, concerts were mostly during the day, and my folks could rarely attend, as they both worked. I still remember my father sneaking a few minutes from work to attend the senior class oratory contest. They do notice. And appreciate.

  41. I hope I make it to some great grand-kids’ concerts – the older set of grandkids are in college now, and the younger too far away (though I made it once). And where is a pattern for argyles? I don’t remember how from when I made them 54 years ago. They were the first thing I ever knit. From there everything else was easy!

  42. What a lovely post, thank you! As a grandmother of 4, I advise you to relax and enjoy the respite when it comes. The grandchildren are worth the wait. And better yet, you get to hear your own children muttering about all those same issues while you are enjoying every minute. Payback at its finest! πŸ˜‰

  43. Heh – we’ve got one tonight. And another at the end of January. And in March, Eldest will be performing in the band on the trumpet she just started learning to play. (Oy.) (Can I just ask? We have three (3) harps in this house. Guitars. Hammered dulcimers. A piano. Flutes, violins, a clarinet even. But she wants to play…trumpet.) (Ack.)
    Unfortunately, we are four for four with musical children, so I suspect I will LIVE at the auditoriums.
    I have had That Day. I have had MANY of them. Feels like you’ve got a big old “I SUCK AND SHOULD NOT BE A MOTHER” tattoo right on your forehead, sometimes. Especially when you’re hauling this little…screaming…CREATURE over your shoulder and running for the nearest exit muttering, “Excuse us, tired child coming through, pardon us, sorry was that your foot?…”

  44. You’re so lucky that you’ve had all the concerts to go to, my parents always came and it was a highlight for me. I went to all the ones for my daughter and loved it. These days I’d like to be able to go to my granddaughter’s, but the schools are not all having “Christmas/Holiday/Winter/whatever” concerts and that is NO FUN! I hope schools are still doing concerts when your grandchildren come along – it’s way more fun.
    Chris S.
    PS – nice argyles BTW

  45. In the book “Why My Wife Thinks I’m and Idiot” (and I know I’m supposed to underline but I don’t know how) by some sports broadcaster who is famous but not to me, he quoted his therapist and, very loosly quoted here, is this pearl of wisdom: Regret is missing the things that you didn’t enjoy when they were actually happening.
    I’ve thought about that statement (loosly remembered) many times since reading the book.
    Thanks for your blog, I love it.

  46. I’m all teary eyed, too…and of course this made me think of my kids’ elementary school, where they don’t have music programs. No kindergartners singing Up On the Rooftop, no Must Be Santa…no, the only ones who get to perform are the 5th and 6th grade choir and the 6th grade band/strings. Frankly, I think that stinks, because my youngest doesn’t want to be in the choir. And what’s cuter than the girl in the red dress scratching her bum in front of everybody??

  47. I am an elementary orchestra teacher. In the midst of all the complaining I have heard about performances this week, your words brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for understanding the work that goes into a performance, and thank you for your support of these programs.

  48. What about Hank? Can you tag along to his performances? Can you promise him unlimited ball winding if he’ll just join the choir and invite you to the concerts?
    Kids don’t seem to care who it is that’s waving at them, as long as there are people there for them, the more the merrier!

  49. Aw, maybe I’m having a weepy day, but that made me tear up. Just a wonderful story. I do have to say though, I don’t think I’ll be able to handle all of the never agains as gracefully as you have, and my little guy is only 2!

  50. Hey, Steph. Two years ago, my husband and I attended the last high school choir concert of our childrens’ careers. It was the week before the last one graduated. As we stood and applauded, my husband turned to me and, with tears in his eyes (I was weeping copiously at this point), said, “What were we thinking only having two?”

  51. I don’t have kids yet, but it makes me remember my times in choir (including the memorable year that the entire choir quit because we were being told to do over 20 renditions of Jingle Bells and only Jingle Bells). I’ll enjoy going to concerts for my kids someday (in the far off mythical future), but it is a lot of fun to read about them now.

  52. Thank you for that. I, too, know that feeling of being too many places at once, not quite able to make out what the performance is supposed to be. Well, I only have one kid, but, this year, she has managed to pack 3 events into one week. Last night it was the municipal hip-hop dance class recital (a dozen girls between the ages of 9 and 12, tripping and giggling their way through “Breaking Dishes”). Tonight, it’s the school production, in which my brilliant little performer will have markers drawn all over her face in order to represent an art teacher(?!). And finally, Sunday night, the church choir concert (in which I am also supposed to perform). Would I miss any of it? Not on your life. Will I miss it when it’s all over? Probably as much as you are. Am I proud of her? Enormously.

  53. Stephanie – you may not recall what those pieces of music were, but I do. I have three kids and all three of them were in band AND chorus. The chorus stuff is a blur, but for the beginning band, the Christmas concert consisted of “Three Blind Mice”, “Hot Cross Buns” (which is REALLY “Three Blind Mice”) and “Oats, Peas and Beans.” I used to have fantasies of getting some amazing composer to create “Theme and Variations on Beginning Band” with sixteen different versions of “Three Blind Mice”, “Hot Cross Buns” and “Oats, Peas and Beans”.
    My youngest, who is now 21, still goes to a percussion workshop pretty much every summer, so I get to see him “do his thing” (which is what percussionists do) from time to time and I still sniff a lot because for all of the growth and maturity, he’s still the little guy with the red tie and the white shirt, whacking that bass drum in the back and having the time of his life doing it.

  54. Well, I would say you can look forward to grandparenthood concerts — but I’d be giving you a heartattack at the thought of one of your children having a child and thus making you a grandparent. On the other hand, that would be lots of cute baby things to knit again . . .

  55. last week I was concerted OUT – my oldest directed her first play (she’s a college senior) and my youngest (a junior in high school) had a Christmas chorus concert. Don’t you just love seeing a kid in a tuxedo!
    My greatest accomplishment, according to kids is staying awake through the whole thing. There were several, several years where whoever’s concert it wasn’t would sit with me in the audience and elbow me, “Mom, it’s over. You can wake up now!”

  56. Thank You for that first thing in the AM cry.
    I spent many a evening at school concerts(my kids now 24 &21). I shed a tear through every one of them.
    Watching children be precious and true is one of the most wonderful sights on earth.

  57. You are so right. Elementary instrumental instructors are saints. My husband and I are professional musicians, and we started our children young. My daughter has been playing the flute for 2 1/2 years and she is in 3rd grade. My son is 5 and has played the violin for 1 1/2 years. I have to tell you, at least the flute sounds pretty good right off the bat. When my son started violin, it felt as though fingernails were being run down a chalkboard. He is finally getting a decent sound now. Although my kids are not yet in the school instrumental program, I help the teacher out twice a week. I only help with the little bass player because that is what I play. She has 165 students!!!! Yes – I said ONE HUNDREND SIXTY FIVE! I usually come in during the last class of her day. One of the days is saxophones. Now that is a GHASTLY sound. The other day it is strings. How can instruments that are so lovely when mastered sound so incredibly wretched while being played by beginners? It is sad for you to have to say goodbye to the concerts of yesterday, but so joyous to look at the great times to come. Hang in there. I am still mourning the fact that my youngest started kindergarten in the fall. I miss him every day…..until I see that mother with the toddler licking salt off of a stranger’s boot.

  58. Aw! What a great post. Now I think I’m going to have “must be santa” in my head for the rest of the day… It must be quite a thing to go to three of those concerts every year and for so long. I have only vague memories of mine but every so often the nostalgia hits like whiplash.

  59. I completely agree about the sainthood of the elementary instrumental music teacher. I work in an elementary school and my workroom shares a wall with the band/orchestra room. If you think those first concerts are bad, you should try those weeks when the fifth graders are “trying out” the instruments. I kid you not, we got a call from a classroom where some kids were freaking out because they heard the tornado sirens going off.
    It was just the clarinets.

  60. Toddler licking road salt off a stranger’s boot….*snort*…. trust me….you weren’t alone as you think, lololololl

  61. My last Christmas concert was last night and I was emotional about it! However, this was the first year I realized I could knit in the dark! Thank you for the great idea.

  62. You know Steph, I am having a tough time this season, because I only have 3 more Christmases that I KNOW my son will be home. I have one child and watching him grow up has been both a joy & a sadness of letting go. Last times suck! Make a reservation for 2, I need those grade ones too.

  63. My public school concert days ended last June and I am feeling very sad! Fortunately my boys stayed with the music program through their senior year and we were treated to some beautiful music making during our last concerts!

  64. Classic post, Stephanie! Flag this as one of your Top 10. Now, I must admit I have no idea what “must be Santa” is, so I’m off to Google it and perhaps hear a version online (I did know the Hockey Night in Canada song, for the record).

  65. Ah, the sweet days of playing in an elementary orchestra. Imagine if you will, an orchestra conductor who decided to have a fundraiser by recording the 5th & 6th grade orchestra concert, making a record out of it and selling it to parents. I still have the record (40 years later) and it’s so painfully bad I can’t listen to it without laughing hysterically. Your message brought back such warm fuzzy memories.

  66. I’m sitting here bawling because I know exactly what you speak of, though I can’t really wrap my head around the fact that there truly will be a day when I don’t have a toddler in the house.
    mommy to three (7 1/2, 4 1/2, 3) and waiting for our fourth child to be referred to us in a Taiwanese adoption (look at me sign right up for more years of toddlerhood!)

  67. I read this entry and thought about my “lasts” and those are done now except for the last one graduating from college and the last wedding. Now I’m back to the beginning with firsts. I have 3 grandbabies who are starting to have the concerts at school. Just had one for my oldest granddaughter. The funniest part is that the second graders were the best ones at the concert (no grade ones or kindergartners singing this year) I forgot how much I missed those early concerts until I went to this one.

  68. You’re always welcome to tag along with me to my kid’s events – he’s 8, so there’s lots in my future. It would be nice to have another knitter with me…
    Plus, you have Hank, and Rachel H’s little one – you can stretch this out for as long as you want…

  69. I played viola for 10 years (grades 3-12), and it always sounded great to me πŸ™‚
    I was part of a county wide orchestra one year while still in elementary school and the performance was recorded and printed on vinyl for the pleasure of the parents to purchase. I remember listening to that record thinking–we sounded much better than that in the music hall–HA.

  70. Melancholy is not a strong enough word – a horrible crunching in the chestal area is more what I feel as I look back at all the moments, now gone, that were not so much fun at the time. Maybe they were fun. And yes, we have worn the unconvincing rictus while sitting on a misbehaving, crying young one and attempting to watch the rest of the performance. My pet peeve? The parents who stand RIGHT IN THE FRONT with their video cameras so no one else can see because their particular child is apparently much more important than everyone else’s. (I’ve waited 15 years to get that off my chest!)

  71. When my children were the age for school concerts, I could never understand why grandparents were in the audience. It’s not like they even had to be there. Now that my children are both grown, I do understand.

  72. I’m thinking it is time for us all to start working on an empty-nest program for you. Your only hope of surviving that test is if your sweet girls turn into ogres the last few months before they head out to college, jobs, whatever their futures hold, and you will be thrilled to see the last of them. From what I have read over the past couple of years, this doesn’t sound like something any of them will do. So…. make a plan woman, you’re going to miss more than the concerts!

  73. OH, I am sad now! I don’t get to go to a school concert this year! My 2 oldest kids go to a school where only the 1st graders (which my #2 is)do the Christmas program. But due to overcrowding, they aren’t doing programs this year. I really hadn’t thought much about it, but now seeing your post, I’m sad. Guess, I better go knit some more to cheer me up!

  74. It never ends. My upper 70’s age parents still come to my band concerts when they can. I still sit down in my spot and scan the audience to see where they are sitting. We did the same with our two girls for band, recitals, marching band at football games and musicals, from grade school through high school and beyond. Even when our oldest daughter played for a senior recital, we traveled to hear her play for someone else. Our younger daughter just played her last college band concert over the weekend. We missed it due to not wanting to travel two hours in an ice storm. Thankfully, she told us our present from her this year would be a CD of the performance. Enjoy all the moments while you can. I’m looking forward to watching grandchildren some day.

  75. Of course they’d let you back! You’re the epitome of Saintly Motherhood herself! You’d be an example to all the real parents, who are sitting there thinking, “will I ever survive this? will my child grow up to be an axe-murderer?” and you will be the shining star that says Yes! Yes, you with the snot-nosed, boot-licking toddler, you will survive!
    Assuming you get that gansey done, however.

  76. No more school concerts? You and Joe should be high-fiving each other. I know I’ll be giving out high fives all around when my tweens perform at their last school concerts.

  77. My oldest just started preschool this semester and it’s been fun so far! But if the rest of it goes as fast as the first four years have…..yikes! I’ll blink and they’ll be in high school! So when they are very needy and clingy now, I just squeeze them and know that someday soon it won’t be “cool” to snuggle with mom. πŸ™‚
    Happy Holidays!

  78. To everything there is a season…
    Our daughter is in 8th grade, and her holiday concert (viola in the strings, flute in the band, piano in jazz band, and steel drums! – doesn’t sing though) is next Wednesday. Last night, however, was the high school holiday concert, which went for 2.5 hours and is what we will look forward to next year. Our daughter already knows a bunch of the hs kids – those one grade ahead of her and the crew she knows from the (hs) marching band which pulls some kids from middle school because we’re not a large school district. The high school does a fabulous job of it – multiple choirs, strings, band, combined-band-and-strings, jazz ensembles, wind ensembles, wind-and-strings ensembles, steel drums, and last night a percussion routine of push brooms!
    I don’t understand the borax sticks comment – I’d understand lithium. The teachers must be saints, although we’ve got a pretty good group of kids.
    Although there are those days when you have to restrain yourself from strangling – uh, make that harming, no threatening, oh you know what I mean – your own, let alone someone else’s.
    I don’t think we’ve missed an event. Although now she’s making noises about pep band too…

  79. Ah, you made me cry. Been there, doing that. They are painful at times, aren’t they? Though I am always proud of my kids. You story is the story of every mother/father – you just put it in words so well. Thank you.

  80. You are officially insane. Sometimes, when I was in middle school and in orchestra, I KNEW that we were awful. I KNEW that we were complete crap and every time I went on stage, I cringed for the audience inside. It was that bad. I don’t see how you could POSSIBLY want more of it….

  81. That brought tears to my eyes – I still remember the very first holiday concert I attended where my older daughter’s class sang Hawaiian Christmas song with grass skirts doing their version of the hula [their teacher Mrs. Tsuru, a fantastic teacher, was from Hawaii]). But Pam is right – my oldest grand has been taking violin lessons for about 2 years now so I expect to be applauding him at grade school performances soon. I still remember when my brother was taking clarinet lessons – it was so painful for the rest of the family & he never did get beyond Happy Birthday – I suspect he had no aptitude for it.

  82. My husband complained about sitting through them–and he’s quite hard of hearing–but he went to every one with me. A poignant thing to him was starting about 5th grade, first the girls, then the boys, the choir would be made up of a mix: all the same age, some would be children, still, some adolescents, and soon, some young men and women. Enjoy it, those of you with school agers. I am fondly anticipating grandchildren, but happy with the children of friends meanwhile. Have good Holidays.

  83. Oh! You made me laugh and cry at work!! (As I sit here in a basic English Class with 15 boys and 2 girls—they think I’m crazy). It’s so hard to move forward sometimes because the past holds all those comfortable (and sometimes not so comfortable) memories and the future is so. . . . well unknown. I think that every time one of my boys does something new, “well, here’s another milestone I won’t be able to look forward to.” This is especially true when I see new babies and their squinchy little faces–I start calculating how many more I could have with the time and money allotted me.
    It’s that whole “life is bittersweet” thing. I’m pretty sure it completely stinks.

  84. Don’t worry, soon grandchildren come along, and the wonders of school holiday concerts begin again! I teach music in an elementary school (grades 1-8). Thanks for your kind words about my profession. It does take patience and a gigantic sense of humor.

  85. Wow, did this post take me back. Both my daughters played the cello. One is now teaching strings to 6th graders and loves it. I have always admired elementary school string teachers.

  86. Argyles are fabulous. My mom made them when she was in the 40s..may be what started me on the road to knitting. As for Christmas concerts, I do miss them. Never missed one. My “Tiptoe Elf” is now 28, he was the first performer we were priveleged to watch. My drummer is still “doing his thing” as the lady above said and my dancer is now teaching English in Peru. And I would give anything to watch them on stage again.

  87. Just wait – someday you’ll be ‘Gran’ and sitting once again in that audience watching absolutely the cutest 8-yo God ever put on the planet – your grand-child! Then you’ll get to start all over again!

  88. Just wait until you have the grandbabies…all the fun none of the bootlicking-removal responsibilities… (says the mom that has all of grade school/junior high/high school to go still)

  89. My husband is a music teacher. He teaches, band, beginning band, elementary music. He absolutely loves it, and unfortunately I have gone to many elementary/junior high school concerts and we don’t even have children yet.
    love your blog.

  90. Bless you, Stephanie. After all those concerts become memories, your daughters will never have the right to gripe that “You loved …….. best because you went to her stuff and none of mine!” I only had one child and, for some of those years, she was homeschooled. But we went to whatever thing came along and beamed with obnoxious pride at our little star. Not only did we get a kick out of it all, but our bases are covered. And don’t think for one minute that I don’t look in awe at how you handle your rambunctious tribe and your business as well. I know I couldn’t do it. Cheers for the holidays to you all.

  91. Snort snort πŸ™‚ Boot licking toddler! Sooo funny when it’s not one of your own! As the mother of a 30-something-year-old, I can warn you that it is amazing what you will miss and wax nostalgic about, but hey, there will be Grandkids…more fun, less responsibility πŸ™‚

  92. “this mothering thing is not going to work out because you suck and your kids a freak?”
    Thank you for making me feel less alone!
    This one is a bit of a tear jerker, or is that just my hormones talking?

  93. Ah, how timely. We have a middle school strings concert tonight, featuring my 11 year old viola player. She and her fellow sixth graders have been playing since August 26th, I think. Why is it that all beginning music, even holiday music, is written in a key that makes it sound like a funeral dirge???

  94. Is the slug-eating toddler at the nursery school garden party any different? And I did think my kid was a freak because I sucked at mothering. Now I don’t care because he puts on quite a floor show.

  95. I just–literally just–got back from my fifth grader’s band concert. 100 fifth graders (band is mandatory in fifth grade) crammed into the auditorium, all wailing away on their chosen torture devices while parents with strained smiles try not to wince from the audience. In the middle of all this, it occurred to me in a blinding flash that this is the juicy center of the cinnamon roll. The best part. And it will never come again.

  96. You made me both laugh and cry today. First I read yesterday’s post, and speaking as another self-employed woman, I work for an idiot too! My work is always crazy in December as it is year end and we do financial work. THis year we have added going to my mother’s 75th birthday the week before Christmas. My boss deserves to be fired (and wouldn’t she (me) love that!!!)Then I read today’s post…as my 20 year old (the baby of the family) is getting ready to drive home from college for the holidays and break. And I thought back to the concerts and the lacrosse games and the parent teacher conferences and thought, “It’s all behind us as far as that part of our lives goes.” It’s good, but sad too.

  97. Yes, it is bittersweet. Kelly is a senior in high school and my only band member. I will still go to football games and watch the band, go to basketball games and listen to the pep band, may even go to concerts and see my neighbors daughter play, but it will never again be my own after this year.
    Yes, there will be football teams to cheer for, cattle shows to watch, and wrestling matches to be the designated food mom. Just no more high school music.
    Hopefully, Kelly will get into her college of choice, just 10 minutes from home with an active band parent organization!

  98. After I dropped my youngest off at college in Savannah GA, I visited friends in New Jersey where it happened to be Parents Night at school. Did I want to go with? YES! Because I loved the school concerts and back-to-school nights and tee-ball games and dance recitals and, until I become a grandma, I won’t get to go again.

  99. Ahhh- Stephanie,
    Such a wonderful piece. We are now going to all the elementary school concerts of our two grandkids who live across the street. They go to the same small school (K-5) that our two children went to.
    The older child is in 4th grade, and the younger in second. Three more years. I love the concerts. I taught beginning violin one student at a time, and I love seeing children learn. I will probably go to get my elementary school fix after they graduate.
    If a professional symphony played the way they do, I would be outta there, but I love watching the kids struggle with learning something very difficult, and persisting.
    Your post is a very merry Christmas message.
    I have to share one incident. The only time my son Peter (now 40) was moved to participate in the church pageant, he was cast as Joseph. In the interest of reality, he decided to change the Baby Jesus’ diaper during the event… Fortunately Baby Jesus was a doll. There was a lot of snorting during the service as he struggled with the pins!

  100. And that’s why my boys will both be brass players, thankyouverymuch. Learners sound decent pretty fast.

  101. I, too, have been in this very same position, thinking that this is the “very last time”. I’m sorry to say that this feeling will pass with lightning speed and you’ll never think of it again! LOL!!! The concerts will come and go and you won’t even notice. I have felt guilty over my lack of “missing the concerts”, but, alas, I do not miss them after all! Knit on, dear Harlot!!!

  102. I know what you mean. I’m in that stage right now, with 4 ages 8,6,4 and 2. I’m a 3rd grade teacher, and I’m directing grades 1-4 in our Christmas presentation….thankfully there’s no instruments involved. I majored in music education in college for awhile and wanted to stab my eardrums….it does take a person with the patience of Job to teach those little ones.

  103. OMG, there are all these crazy people commenting about being a grandparent some day… do they really think that the girls are EVER allowed to have sex?

  104. I got all teary-eyed reading this. I’m at the end too, though I haven’t had nearly as long a run as you – I have just one kid, and her middle school (next year) is just grade 6-9. So I’m done with the kindergarteners and first graders, too. And I know I’m going to miss them.
    Although I haven’t done it as long as you, I completely, 100% understand.
    My daughter is taking viola though so I have middle-school string concerts to look forward to. Aieeee!

  105. the school programs are one thing i really miss now that we homeschool. i loved seeing my bella up there singing her heart out. now, if i am lucky, i get to sit through a christmas pageant at church and hear the same songs sung every year that way… but, that said, i wouldn’t trade homeschooling for school programs. not for all the wool in the world.

  106. I was that band/orchestra teacher for ten years (I have the hearing loss to prove it) and I have to say it had its moments but overall, I did love it. So why do I have a yarn shop now? Let’s just say it wasn’t the kid’s fault.

  107. Shoot, I want to BE in the concerts still. I remember my first grade Christmas concert…my mom put make-up on me. It was a big moment in my little life. I picked emerald eye shadow, and she totally let me wear it.
    I look forward to my little ones’ concerts…and I’ve had enough experiences with shoe-licking toddlers already at church…there are a lot of people out in the hallways during everything, sometimes you just can’t see them because they’ve already advanced to step two: going outside where it’s cold, hoping that the discomfort will calm the child down, or step three: strapping them into their carseats so that they can continue their thrashing without injuring themselves or throwing out your back or causing more embarassment in view of strangers.
    Good times, good times.
    I find myself getting teary-eyed over my 3yo not needing me, I’ll be a basket case by the time she’s ready to move onto high school.

  108. I still to this very day sit down and have a good bawlin’ whenever I hear the Carpenter’s Christmas classic, “Merry Christmas Darling”. That song was sung by my angelic and near perfect daughter on her last high school choral performance. I’ve always loved that song, the angst and all— but even that night it tugged on my heartstrings because I knew it was simply, THE LAST.
    Today when I hear it I know full well that my daughter is neither angelic or anywhere near perfect, but I cry anyway.
    Motherhood is a strange bag of stuff indeed.

  109. I got one word for you, dear Harlot: Grandbabies. You’ll be back soon enough, don’t worry!

  110. Ha, don’t worry. I’m sure it won’t be next year, but grandchildren Christmas concerts will be along soon enough. . .. But not too soon.

  111. After reading your post I wanted to say, wait, someday you will have grandkids and get to do it all over again. Only this time you’ll have the time and the patience to really enjoy it. My husband rarely made it to our kid’s concerts, now he won’t miss our grandson’s concert for anything.
    I see a lot of other people are saying this very same thing, that made me tear up even more.
    What do people without kids do at Christmas time?

  112. Ah….. Christmas concerts. There were a couple of years when we had four kids in four schools, four concerts, plus the one I went to with my class!!! Five teacher interview nights, five open house bbqs, and so on!!! Now we go to our neighbour kids baseball and basketball and concerts and recitals, because our grandkidlets live too far away. Actually maybe you could take my place for the two in Toronto! They live near High Park! Lovely little school. :O)

  113. I too spent my evening watching a joint elementary/jr high Christmas band concert. The neckties, pants hems (stapled) and shoes that don’t quite fit anymore always catch me by surprise… I had both son & daughter all dolled up playing their little hearts out.
    BTW… are you knitting seamless argyles? Do you have a standard recipe ala most of your socks?
    I just finished the embossed leaf socks and thanks to your helpful hints about the bigness, I made a few modifications (reverted to standard heel and cut out a couple of sole stitches to make them just right!

  114. I was the kid that had to be removed before she vomited all over every one, since there was only one parent home that night to take care of two kids.
    My parents went to just about every single concert. I’m pretty sure that my dad was harshly elbowed in the side during every single concert as well, for he’d fall asleep and start snoring loudly. It was nice to know what to expect.

  115. I LOVE your argyles! Is there a pattern that you’re following or one that I might be able to fiddle with to make some similar socks?

  116. I read this going, I have SO been there. What will be most bittersweet for you is the very last concert ever at the end of the last one’s high school. At which, for ours, the kids gave the choir teacher a huge thank you gift. And at which that teacher particularly recognized two students who had gone above and beyond for him.
    And one of them–was mine. That moment of watching the surprise in my son’s face as he lit up in joy in front of everybody made up for every screeching elementary concert ever–and then some.

  117. Stephanie… it’s not over by a long shot, enjoy the brief respite because in a few blinks of an eye (some people refer to them as years) you’ll be counting down again, only this time it will be for your Grandchildren …

  118. I’m done with it and I don’t miss it at all. Not one bit. And there won’t be any grandkids because I’m going to have them neutered. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  119. My girls are in college. I miss it even though I never thought I would. This post was wonderful Stephanie and brought back so many memories.

  120. I can’t believe I’m sitting here with a tear (or three) in my eyes. Wow, you really brought those years back.
    But don’t worry, after a few years hiatus (for you, there just might be the grandkids’ concerts (for the record, you can’t tell what song the grandkids are singing, either).
    They’re so BIG – and so tiny – and so very earnest! It’s wonderful.

  121. Man, you know someone’s a good writer when they can make you feel their nostalgia about the sort of thing that used to literally give you nightmares as a kid. Lovely post; even if I had to firmly repress some memories, I was also going “awwwwww” just a little bit. Way to make me feel schizoid! [g]
    (I still get a frisson of horror at the thought of the few public performances I was forced to endure in school. Or the recitals from those dratted private piano lessons. I am *so* glad I didn’t go to public school until I was a sophomore; my parochial schools didn’t have the money for that sort of thing, much less instruments and such, so we rarely had concerts, pageants, or anything like that. Thank god!)

  122. O hooray, a parent who dares to admit that those events are boring! When I did the same, a few years ago, everybody looked at me aghast, as if I was the worst mother in the world. I now suffer in silence.
    I smiled all the way through this post. And then laughed out loud at the last sentence. Because yes, boring though they may be, it is something that I will miss too when mine get older.

  123. The bittersweet winter concert. Nice. I almost feel like part of your family…I get to go to graduations and concerts. It is wonderful.
    But, seriously, Argyles? Wonderful! They look like they are knitted in the round! Pattern, please!?

  124. Oh, Stephanie! My little guy’s concert is tonight and I’m already crying reading your post! This is his last Christmas program and he is only in grade 3. After this, he’ll do the big kid programs with the older group of kids. Maybe one day in the not too distant future, you’ll be in the same gym/auditorium again, only this time, it will be a grandchild in the program. Happy Holidays and good luck with the Christmas knitting!

  125. Wow Steph. This post really hit home. I get so stressed out about these things. I feel like my children’s school is the only one out there who crams WAY too many kids onstage, has them sing songs no one has ever heard of (can’t offend anyone by singing about Santa! hmpff!), and we can hardly see our kids because some tall kid is in front of them. I guess I’ll try to be a little more patient and a little less hostile. One’s already in middle school and I only have the little one in grade school now. It WILL all be over one day…:*(
    PS My daughter’s light up the stage too! πŸ™‚

  126. Your posts about your girls growing make me pause to appreciate my small children whom I desperately want to grow a little more rapidly so I can return to the workforce and sleeping at night. The days are long, the years are short.
    argyle at a concert? You really are good. πŸ™‚

  127. My heart is black as coal, but watch my lips. I do not now, nor have I ever missed those concerts. A lovely and touching, beautifully written piece, but I know an elaborate decoy when I read one. That was a lot of work to distract us from the fact that on Dec. 13, with other projects in the chute, you are knitting Argyles. When Claudia’s done whupping you upside the head, I dibs the other side.

  128. Mine day was a lovely crisp day in December – elegant theater. Professional performance of Nutcracker that Grandma treated us to because 4 yr old ballerina wanted to see the real thing. Meltdown in the narrow aisle during intermission. Prone on the floor, kicking and yelling loudly “I want to go HO-OME!” A dear older usher – a grandfather, I’m sure – suggested quietly that I walk away, since this outburst was for my personal benefit. It worked, bless him, the little ballerina slept through the whole second half and missed all the good parts.

  129. My daughters thought “Must Be Santa” was “Musty Santa” for the longest time . . . gives the song a new take. I don’t miss the choir concerts, but I will definitely miss the orchestra concerts after they graduate next year. Yesterday they asked why I used to cry in their Christmas pageants at church when the Sunday School sang and signed “Silent Night” and I couldn’t come up with a better reason than “You’ll know when you are a mother.” Maybe I’ll point them to this post instead.
    When my brother was little, he was “that” kid at any holiday event: concert, church, party. One Sunday we realized that he had been awfully quiet, only to find that he crawled under six pews and was sitting with another family. Kind of wished they had kept him! I’m pretty sure he would have licked some boots as well.

  130. My almost three-year-old son is about to have his second Christmas concert next week through his daycare. We are going to sit through with our 9 month old daughter, and be one of those sets of parents with the plan and the cameras… thanks for the perspective – it does seem already like it goes by too fast, and sometimes you really do have to remind yourself to stop to take time to enjoy it- especially in the prime boot-licking years. (Boy I am having a lot of those days at present!) Have a wonderful holiday season.

  131. As a middle school chorus teacher, I can tell you that there are occasionally times where we wish we were somewhere else, too. But that only happens when you notice one of your students doing something that neither you nor his parents are going to be particularly proud of on the replay. (Like last year when all my 8th grade boys came out with their shirts untucked, ties yanked down off their collars and sleeves rolled up. They made up for it at the end of the concert, however, by snagging the microphone from my hand as I thanked the parents for their support and demanding another round of applause because “Miss P rocks and is the best teacher ever.”)

  132. You can knit and attend a kids concert? You truly are a wonder woman. I would stuff the yarn in my ears and use the needles for self acupuncture. Yes, I attended every one also, as well as church concerts and plays. I remember very clearly my darling daughter, aged six, front row center of the church Christmas pagent pulling up her knee socks, one at a time, with her jumper firmly tucked under her chin. Then waving at me when she finally spotted my frantic attempts to gain her attention. Wish they had video cameras back then…She has a daughter of own now…I can hardly wait.

  133. I was lucky enough to attend the same elementary school, K-6. The first graders always did the Exact Same Play every single year. You watched it when you were in kindergarden. You were in it in first grade, and you watched it again during grades 2-6. I was Stanley Stegasorus in the first grad play. I’m 36 and I still remember all the words. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or just kind of scary. πŸ™‚

  134. Oh, I’m verklempt! I am going tonight to see my son perform (1st grade, after-school dance program). And thanks to your post today, I will appreciate it much more than I had previously expected to.

  135. Aaw, Stephanie, you’re making me feel a tiny bit better about the dozen years of torture I put my parents through.
    We have my brother’s 1st grade class production of The Wizard Of Oz on DVD, transferred from grainy video tape. Complete with disintegrating costumes, unintelligible mumbling, the entire class forgetting the words to a song, and the sobbing teacher. It’s a work of art. Let me know if you need a copy to keep your spirits up. πŸ˜‰
    Though for the record, it’s been 16 years and I still refuse to watch one nanosecond of my junior high school clarinet recital. I’m cringing even typing this…

  136. I remember once sitting at a concert and watching the music teacher. Her parents were in the front row, center, and I thought “They’re here to watch their kid just as much as I’m here to watch mine.” They’ll always be our kids, no matter how old they/we get.

  137. Six years ago, I sat in a stuffy auditorium for a THREE AND A HALF HOUR dance recital. They might as well have dipped us all into vats of ground glass, except that, at the very end, I got to see my four-year-old stepdaughter do interpretive ballet.
    To the music of Pearl Jam.
    It was a thing of beauty and hilarity to behold.

  138. Yeah, you’ll be back to those concerts in a few short years, as a grandmother. In the meantime, you can fill in the void with Hank’s concerts.
    At my then-4-year-old granddaughter’s pre-school Christmas program last year, she spied me in the audience, whispered “Granny” (loud enough for all to hear), beamed and gave me a cute little wave, elbowed the girl next to her to point out her granny, smoothed her new dress, touched the buckles on her new shoes, then folded her hands in the position taught by the teacher, and went right on with the singing! Thank goodness, her daddy caught it all on video, and I get a lump in my throat every time I watch it.
    Yeah, you’ve got many more years of concerts and programs ahead of you.

  139. When I attended my last school concert (3 years ago), listening to the last rendition of Louey Louey (thank God!), and I realized it was my LAST school concert, I actually started to cry. I don’t know if it was with relief, or grief. I had to go up and hug the band teacher and say goodbye afterwards. (I’m sure he thinks I’m a nutcase) I, too, wondered if they’d let me come to the concerts even though I have no more children attending school in our school district.
    You’ll get over it. I did. Don’t even miss it now.

  140. Even though my oldest is in grade 2, last night was our first Christmas concert, for my SK daughter. Delightful. The two year old went up and sat beside the teacher who was directing from the floor while the kids were on the stage πŸ™‚
    I am a (out of work) instrumental teacher. For some odd reason, I thought it would be the best thing ever to teach 12 year olds how to play band instruments. Somedays I still can’t believe that.

  141. As one of those beginning instrumental music teachers, thank you so much for what you wrote today. My concert was last night also, and no matter how well I think we’ve done, I can’t exhale until I know the parents are pleased. Yes, the introduction to an instrument is rough (and I also teach recorders to 3rd grade) and there are days when I want to put my head through the bass drum, but it is the most amazing job in the world. I get to watch a child take a very grown-up item and cherish it and convey some of those complex emotions from inside their heart and share it with anyone who’ll listen. And then thank ME for what I’ve done. I thank them, over and over; and their parents.
    And now I thank you.

  142. Tonight is my youngest’s last Elementary school Christmas program. I am looking forward to it, and getting teary about it at the same time. After eleven years, I am ready to be done with elementary school, but some mixed emotions as well.
    Tuesday night was the 7th grade concert night, orchestra (really just strings, not a full orchestra), girls choir and 7th grade band. Choir and Band were truly enjoyable. My daughter is in choir, and to be completely honest, the band was the best of the three groups. Orchestra was a painful event. And, I felt a bit betrayed. The program had three songs listed for each group. I prepared myself for that. However, two of the orchestra’s three songs were four song medley’s. Oldest child was sitting in the audience with me, and she similarly felt betrayed.
    My son is currently learning to play the cello. I have additional mixed emotions about his going into orchestra next year, as for part of the concerts at the middle school, they have a band concert, a separate orchestra concert and a concert of just the choirs. Earplugs may be in my future. However, if son agrees to join choir, the middle school choir earns superior rankings at choral contests, I may remain earplug free.

  143. Ah, well if you actually MARRIED a music teacher, like I did, your concert going days would NEVER END!
    Actually, though, my high school aged son and I returned to his middle school for a delightful concert earlier this week. HIS IDEA! He considered himself a “talent scout” for the high school musical groups.

  144. Oh, Steph, you’ve made me feel all misty and nostalgic and my oldest is only SIX! How on earth am I going to make it through the next 11 years?!

  145. I remember all those concerts well, and yes, I do miss them now that they are over. The most memorable one was when child #3 feel asleep during his preschool concert and almost fell off the stage. The little boy in the chair next to him kept nudging him awake, but I finally had to take him off. Most of the parents saw him of course and at one point the audience laughter was louder than the singing. My granddaughter just started her school career, so I have more school concerts to look forward to. I can’t wait!

  146. Oh, this will not be the last time! You have forgotten that one day your children will reproduce (after college and getting a good job, of course) and you will be watching your grandbabies on stage.
    Think of it… baby socks!

  147. Did you read my mind? Right now I have children in three different schools – do you have any idea how many concerts that is? Among the four of them they all sing, and the instruments played mean both band and orchestra concerts. The only part of my story that is different is that around here public school kids don’t get to admit to celebrating holidays. When the town lights the tree lights on the town common, the combined fifth grades sing things like “Winter Wonderland” and “Jingle Bells”. The same songs every year – why fool around when you have discovered the only six songs that offend no one?
    I still have two more years of elementary school programs – the parking hassles, the seating hassles (for some reason most of the elementary schools have no auditorium, and the gym is no where near big enough for the crowd of cheering family members), and most of all the plain vanilla program choices that even leave the kids wondering why sometimes. Once they get a little older it is apparently okay to expose them to meaningful music of many cultures and things get a little more interesting.
    Still no straight-up holiday things though. Sigh….
    But sometimes they leave the house lights up and I can really get some knitting done!

  148. Dene beat me to it–when I turn around at a concert and look at my mom watching one of my daughters on stage I can absolutely see that part of her is thinking “been here, done this with four kids & why am I back?” and part of her is reveling in the wonder of getting to do it again.

  149. My oldest little girl sang a little solo last Friday at her concert. I was so proud. I have a lot of concerts left (she is only seven and has a younger sister and brother) but I really enjoyed it.

  150. I am an elementary private school music teacher, and I get to hear all the squawks and squeaks from recorders and violins. But for some reason none of that bothers me. I guess I’m just too focused and intent on what I’m trying to get across to the students. And when they “get it” it sounds beautiful to me. I’m not sure if that makes me a demi-god, but it might show that I’m just a little bit insane. By the way, my son once spent an entire Sunday School Christmas concert (which was being videotaped for posterity) with his finger up his nose.

  151. OK, that settles it, Stephanie, you need to see a Dr. You’ve got a bad case of nostalgia. No cure, from what I’ve read. Just some odd-named liquid medicine that you’re supposed to have every so often.

  152. Oh, did that bring back memories. Mine are all out of high school and only one is in college (part time along with a full time job). I remember the little holiday concerts in the elementary school combination cafeteria and auditorium, when I sewed little aprons for my daughter and her friends all the way up to the last spring concert when her band teacher got choked up when he listed her accomplishments through her high school years. Concerts, band parades, February musicals (again, Mom sewing costumes). When my youngest graduated high school, we were at the field early, since he was in the chorus and they practiced before everyone else arrived. I sat there with the family and the realization hit me. He’s graduating. Oh my gosh. I don’t think I believed it until that second. I said to my oldest daughter, “He’s graduating!” She said, “Yeah, Mom, that’s why we’re here.” It was just so weird knowing I would no longer have a kid in the school district. It’s a monumental moment.
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Stephanie.

  153. And then, just that fast, the truly last concert — the graduating seniors get to play one last time at college commencement — and you wonder where the years went…sigh.

  154. My oldest had to take a business trip this week – the same one her 7th grade twin stepkids had two concerts (parochial school and church). She was not sad about it. What is sad is that even they didn’t want to be there. (Dad, Mom and Stepdad were all there, though). The fates got back at her however. She was in Topeka when the huge mid-west ice storm hit and was iced in her hotel for two days. She didn’t enjoy it. At all.

  155. My little one was in JK last year, and did her first school concert. And while I waited anxiously for it to be my turn to wave and beam alongside of her father and Grammas, I watched the other classes perform. And I totally agree with you – the Grade ones are the best! The Kindergarten kids are too shy, too usure, the older kids too used to it all, too uncaring. Grade one must be when they really GET it and really want to make their best impression. We were nearly on the floor in tears they were so cute and funny last year.

  156. The boot licking story made me both laugh out loud (not something I do very often!) and squirm uncomfortably in my seat. My little one is 21 months old and tantrums have really started. I am fully aware that we will have our own version of the boot licking incident one day VERY soon!
    What a fab mum you are, your kids are very lucky. xx

  157. Oh, yeah… the smell of damp winter coats in a hot gym.
    Fave memory: The multiple kindergarten classes were lipsinking to something on the risers. Top center row a little boy totally skips this and instead joyfully stomps on the toe of the little girl next to him. Big grin at end of song. AT which point, she hauls off and slugs him.
    Merry Christmas!

  158. i loved the boot licking. I’m in a middle school band, and even though the band teachers act calm during the concert, they SO aren’t when they’re with us. i thought my band teacher was going to have a heart attack when the percussion wasn’t on time.

  159. Welcome to my world of “lasts”. I remember when it hit me for the first time. My oldest son (I have 3) was performing for the last time with his high school marching band. He loved that particular activity, I cried, he cried, and I said, “Jason, remember when you were little and you would beg to do something just one more time, go down the slide, jump off the diving board, etc. Well you get to do this just one more time.” It really did turn on a light bulb for me, it’s not just the first things in our childrens lives that should be noted, I think I’ll remember the lasts more.

  160. Steph, no holding out. If you’re knitting seamless argyles in the round, you simply must share them. They look wonderful!

  161. i deserve a ribbon, or a gold medal, or some kind of prize. my eldest child was born in 1982, and the youngest in 1995 – therefore, i have been attending Christmas concerts, non-stop, since 1987. by all rights, i should be saying (this very night) five. i have 5 left.
    however… the eldest? she is now married, and the mother of a lovely 6 month old baby girl… who will be five in 4.5 years.
    you see, it is never going to end. and at this point in my life, i’m so glad to know that. just wait, one of these days your count will start again at 13, and you’ll be as joyous and one woman dares to be.
    now.. how to swallow down this huge lump in my throat, all the while wondering what knitting i’ll take to maddie’s first ever trumpeting in the band. oh. my. gosh.

  162. My step daughter’s concert is tonight, and she’ll be in 5th grade next year – our last year of elementary. Makes me want to get pregnant right now, so there’s not a bigger gap. Luckily I’ll have the neph’s concerts to fill in.

  163. lol. now I know how my parents feel watching our christmas/presentation evenings!…………and they are both instumental teachers!!!!!

  164. I’m going to the high school concert this evening. My daughter plays violin and hand bells. My husband is staying home with our 6 year old because the high school concerts are relentlessly long and the 6 year old goes to bed by 8:00. We have done this before and except for when the schools occasionally plan these things for a Friday evening, one of us is home with one of the other kids . . . and to make this truly painful, we have had someone in elementary school for 17 years . . . its what happens when your kids are 21, 13 and 6 . . . like day care it eventually ends but if I had known that I would be paying day care of 18 years, I would have bought the place!!
    The tragedy for us this season is that the 6 year old’s concert was cancelled by his principal. I guess that is what happens when you fire the music teacher the beginning of December. Idjit. They had a wee bit of a personality conflict. Tell me truthfully that the conflict couldn’t wait until January! Idjit. So her solution was to fire him and cancel the program. And I thought I wouldn’t miss it.

  165. okay–midway through the post, I had to run out of my room, into the 30 degree cold, across the quad and into the staff bathroom because I was laughing so hard I wouldn’t have made it to the end.
    Seriously–I’ve had that toddler with the meltdown, and I’ve wondered what was so interesting on the filthy floor that said kid had to be a human dustmop while everybody else’s kid was performing, and, what’s even more fun, I’ve been to those ‘beginning band’ performances that make you wonder exactly what sort of drugs that teacher has to take to get up in the morning.
    I’ve got two teens and two pre-schoolers (crap-ass planning, that!) and all I can say is that now that we can start counting the assemblies left to the teenagers, I can’t wait for the assemblies of the pre-schoolers. It makes all the difference in the world when you know that someday it ends.

  166. Breathe easy! You’ll actually get to go to your grandchildren’s school concerts!!!

  167. Grandkids are an option. Or you could just have another baby of your own!
    Brushing my hair I usually managed when my three were small. The shower, not so much. I figured I needed to hire a sitter to take a shower if I didn’t get it in before their dad left for work. A “friend” once suggested I put the five-year-old and the twenty-month-old in the shower with me with the two month infant in the baby seat on the bathroom floor outside the shower. Yeah, she had no children and I would rather stay dirty, thanks!

  168. I now feel terrible, gigantic, gobsmacking guilt. I was permitted to beg off the 8th graders guitar concert this year since I was coughing up both lungs like I had just been released from a tuberculosis sanitorium. He said he was ok with it, and seems to still be so, and daddy did go. I have never EVER missed a concert with the 8th grader and the 11th grader (who has given up choir practice for color guard) until now. I was fine through most of today’s blog. Really. Now I’m in danger of shorting out my keyboard with tears and begging forgiveness of a smelly, grunting taller than I am 13 year old boy….waaaaahhhh!!!!!!
    And as someone who spends all day being paid to be in an elementary school Steph, I can tell you… The school will let you come back. They will encourage you to show up, more than likely. You may have to be the knitting club teacher to make it not be too awfully awkward, though.

  169. I swear school concerts is the teachers’ way of getting their own back on the parents. I yelped with joy when I left my LAST EVER “concert”. YIPPEEEEEE

  170. Oh. My. God. I’ve only been to one (with the toddler happily jumping off gym mats in the corner, thank god). ONE. I don’t even want to know how many more I have to endure.

  171. What a good mum to attend and support. Throughout school I sat on stages and squeeked for years on the violin. I crack up at some of the tapes, however it sounded like a great symphony to me at the time. Viola is a rich melodious instrument, not so hard to hear practicing as a violin. Argyl’s look cool!

  172. I should have a tattoo appointment coming up to get my ‘Bad Mother’ label permanently applied.
    Well, today the terror (2 year old boy) was licking the nasty nasty FLOOR of the grocery store while I was desperately trying to recover from my work christmas party and quickly swill a coffee while riding shotgun on the 6 year old so I took my eyes off him for a mere moment to swallow. P.U.
    Normally the school concerts are so crowded and hot that he passes out and turns bright red before his sister even gets to sing. Luckily our concerts are only in the spring! No boots.
    Thanks for the weepfest.

  173. We have three boys. The older two are 24 and 22. The youngest is in 6th grade. All were/are in band of some sort. We have attended concerts forever, and I still enjoy them. Middle son is a music education major, so concerts will go on. We did have to miss his Senior Recital, since he’s going to school in Wisconsin and we live in Oregon.
    According to the school calendar for our youngest, the first band concert of the year for the middle school is tonight. Except that the 6th graders are not playing at all!! We have to wait till the Spring concert to hear all the lovely toots and whistles.

  174. See, now you’ve gone and made me cry.. and my beer is almost empty.
    I work in an elementary school.. so I have an excuse to watch the little kids do their shows…

  175. Ah yes, grade school concerts. Give the band/music teachers a good medal and extra bonus salary!! My daughter’s school had concerts where the kids played plastic recorders–those things were never real musical instruments. At least with violins and violas, the instrument produces (when played well) music. When a plastic recorder is played well, it doesn’t play music–it whistles. And yes, you will miss it terribly. I had another child when my older child was age 15–and I got to go through all those wonderful concerts again!! It’s not to late Steph, you too can have a baby when you are too old to do so! And, you will get years of more concerts, picnics, plays, etc., etc.

  176. I have two words for ya: Grand Babies!
    Those two words are what kept my Mum together on the night of her last grade school Winter Concert

  177. I don’t have any kids of my own yet – but I have the joy of taking our Kinder group to watch the dress rehearsals of all the X-Mas concerts and plays — next week the madness begins!
    It is so much fun – and yet, also all of the things you have described.
    But guess what – last year we had 5 and 6 yr olds crawl on the floor and had to leave. The only good thing about that: They aren’t mine!

  178. One day, we will be back and the tiny ones will say, “Gramma, did you see me in the choir?”

  179. My daughter (15) says road salt is delicious and they’ve been licking it off their mittens and sleds for years. I am not happy to hear this.
    The thing that made me throw up a little in my mouth was my students the other day. I opened a new box of tissues and a bunch of kids grabbed tissues and started….LICKING THEM! That was disgusting. More disgusting than road salt. I calmly pointed out that putting bleached paper products in your mouth is not a good thing, not a healthy thing but I was told that they were *sour* tissues and very tasty. Yuck. Apparently virus control issues (what ever happened to plain old blowyournose tissues?) have citric acid in them.Licking tissues is still yuck.

  180. I know exactly what you mean with the last concerts. I am going through that this year too…on Tuesday, a concert at my daughter’s school in the morning, the last one at her elementary school because she will go to middle school next year. That night, the last one for my son who will graduate from high school. I was wondering myself if they would let me in the door even if my kids won’t attend anymore…
    And yes I brought a sock to work on during both.

  181. After listening to a son learn to play drums (fortunately he gave it up for physics) and a daughter learn to play violin (followed by bagpipe lessons) the operative word would be EARPLUGS! The elementary string teacher wore them so he could get through those first few fingernails-on-the-chalkboard weeks.
    It was fun having a bagpiping daughter. Who knew you could tune a bagpipe? (and worse that I would eventually learn to recognize when bagpipes were out of tune). I’m too far away to go to the grandchildren’s concerts, but the 11 year old already plays a mean tenor sax!

  182. Ha ha ha! Just the other day, my husband had to haul the kids in early from their sojourn out into the snow, because one of them (aged 3.5) would simply NOT stop trying to eat road salt. Not off anyone’s boot, though. Fresh off the dirty snow plowed off our parking lot.

  183. I know I just about broke down sobbing last Halloween when I realized that I would never see my daughter in the grade school Halloween parade again. Not only would I miss seeing her in it but also all those cute, adorable itty-bitty kids dressed up as princesses and robots and whatever. Makes me sad just thinking about it. I know just what you mean

  184. And that is why I teach preschool! We will be singing “Must Be Santa” next Thursday night (and next December and the December after that…)

  185. The christmas concert blog was touching and expressed exactly the way I felt. I especially loved the line “coping mechanism for the stunning auditory experience that is a middle school section”. I used to stifle giggles all the time when the band would play. Now? I ended up working in a high school in the library for 12 years and my son, thankfully became an elementary school teacher so that I never have to say goodbye to those blessed concerts!!

  186. Oh My God. You just reminded me of something I had totally forgotten. My son graduated high school in 2000. When he was in kindergarten, the music teacher at his school composed a song for his class all about being the Class of 2000. They sang it occasionally at concerts in elementary school, and then it disappeared from the radar until they sang it at their high school graduation. I am not a person who cries easily, but let me tell you, sobbing was involved. And even now, typing this, my eyes are not dry. It goes so fast.

  187. my five year old son has had a few preschool programs. Last week was the first one he actually sat through and sang along. It was a big victory for him because he has sensory processing dysfunction. I’m looking forward to seeinghim sing and play for years to come, and I know I’ll be sad when it ends.
    Oh, and I was one of the music teachers in my former life (pre-kids.) I’m sure I’m permanently half-deaf now. I think that needs to be a job qualification.

  188. Hey, we just got back from my older son’s JK concert and it was great until my younger son who is 10 months old squirmed to get down on the floor and proceeded to try crawling under the seats in front of us. I couldn’t tell if he was heading for salty boots or not but I wouldn’t be surprised. Glad to hear yours did the salty boot thing and survived and doesn’t think you’re a lousy mom. There is hope for me!

  189. With three kids, the oldest of whom is in 8th grade, I’ve also been to numerous concerts. Like you, I never thought I’d miss them, but I bet I will.
    After the first or second band performance, my husband looked at the teacher/conductor and, looking as though he’d figured out the secret to the teacher’s success (or sanity), whispered, “He must meditate.”
    nice argyle.

  190. You are so much more kind-hearted and sentimental than I am! My oldest was in marching band for four years in high school, #2 son for two years before he quit. After the last parade I had to chaperone, I was thrilled! I loved the kids, but there is only so many times you can hear “You Can Call Me Al” before you want to puncture your eardrums with pencils.
    Son #3 is taking violin. You would think that is torture, but he is actually pretty good. Besides, his teacher is a Julliard trained violinist. Hit the jackpot on that one! Still, I have another 8 years of concerts to attend. Fortunately, you don’t play “Al” on the violin!

  191. We went through the last set of concerts last year. My husband practically got weepy when the last round of teacher conferences came up. Then there was graduation.
    Now we’ll just have to wait for the grandchildren’s concerts πŸ™‚

  192. Yes, as a teacher (but not the music teacher) I can expound upon the joys of listening to numerous practices previous to the big holiday event, and then actually getting a bit teary every year when the big day comes and they are all, somehow, absolutely adorable (gr 1-3. Then I have to rush around at the meet and eat afterward to shake each and every one of their little hands in front of their parents and tell them what an absolutely wonderful job they did. (Especially a 2 grader this year whose finger was smashed in a car door shortly before she went on stage and smiled through it all. (“I teach” should answer any questions about why my blog is not current, though my excuse is no better than anyone else’s)

  193. Had our life gone as planned, Then last spring as I listened to my daughter’s last orchestra concert at the High School, I too may have been a little disappointed that this would be the last time. But as usual nothing ever goes as planned, and while we were making other plans, life threw us a curve and we had one more blessing to come our way. This one has just started Cello this year, so we have the good fortune of attending, many more(I don’t even want to count)years of “Ode to Joy”. Lucky us.(?)
    You know, it’s not too late for you and Joe to have another child… you know you want to.

  194. This was a wonderful post, Steph, thank you. Like everyone else, I went to those orchestra concerts and football games and marching band contests. Yes, the elementary school and early middle school concerts were often an endurance contest, but it wasn’t too many years before I could really hear the progress, not only of my children but all the others. It amazes me what the instrumental teachers could accomplish, and it was thrilling to attend high school concerts and hear those same children give wonderful performances.
    The “last” experience that stays with me was the year my son was a senior in high school. We attended a large church that had excellent acoustics. At the Memorial Day service, my son played Taps as the echo to the adult trumpeter. It was sublime, and I was a puddle on the floor by the end of that piece.
    But now I have an 8-month old grandson, and his mother (my daughter) is already planning to start him on the violin. . . .

  195. I too was the mother of 3-One year they were in 3 different schools so that meant 3 different “programs”. I too counted the programs left to attend. And then , I blinked!~ It was gone in an instant. Ah, but don’t dispair!! What goes around,comes around and soon you will be sitting in the audience again-this time watching your Grandchildren perform–and the best part is,because they are your Grandchildren their talent will far surpass even your childrens talent and make a mockery of any of the other “grandchildren” performing.
    Don’t Blink-you may miss something.

  196. We didn’t have musical instrument lessons in my school, but the music teacher came in once a week.
    We had glorious concerts. My mother loved them, and she was not tone-deaf. Kids who sang off-key were told to move their lips and not actually sing.
    Mr. Rudnicki was a great music teacher.

  197. You call 280 kids tiny? My elementary school had 56 kids from Kindergarten to Grade 9 πŸ™‚

  198. If you REALLY want to go to one, I’m sure they’d let you volunteer as an usher ^_^.
    Out of the house with knitting time and giggling and beaming at the kids.

  199. I sat through Christmas (then Winter) concerts for my nieces and nephews, then for our son for many years. The year after our son left the elementary school for middle school, I went to work running our elementary school library for the next nine years. Then came the year when I knew I would be leaving for another job at the end of the school year.
    I went to the Christmas (Winter) program that year, listened to the kids singing ‘Must be Santa’ and all the other old familiar tunes, and applauded until my hands stung at the end of the program. Then, knowing this was the last year I’d see “my” kids perform, I went into my darkened library and wept before heading home.
    I. Understand. Completely.

  200. Thank you for that – it was perfect. My first Christmas program as a parent is Monday night. So I kind of needed to hear this.
    And maybe she won’t pick up her dress or her nose.

  201. Thank you! I desperately needed this post today. I came to read about knitting, but secretly, I was freaking out about the whole mom job. I just found out I’m pregnant with #3. That means I’ll have 3 kids under 4 years old, and I kind of wonder how I’ll handle it. And sometimes, actually fairly often, it’s my kid who is having a meltdown and I’m thinking I’m the only crappy parent who can’t have a calm angelic kid. And I needed to be reminded that I’ll miss this stage someday. I’ll miss the fits and the “Mama, carry me,” followed half a second later by, “Put me down! Leave me alone!”
    From someone in the trenches of those early years,
    Thank You!

  202. I know what you mean, it all goes so fast. One minute you’re at their kindergarten Holiday concert, wondering how you’re going to make it through all the rest of them. The next thing you know it’s the last high school concert, play, sport event or whatever, and you realize you’re onto the next stage. The order and predictability of the old phase is gone. I’ve been telling my son, (and any friends who ask that are having their first child.)that the trick of it is to try and enjoy the moment you’re in, while you’re in it. It doesn’t come again. I wish I had known this when he was 5, like I know it now that he’s in college. I do envy you your last 4 Holiday concerts. Thanks for the walk down memory lane. The boot licking incident is hysterical!

  203. okay, you’re right, i *have* to sneak out of work next friday for the preprimary “wintersing” (wiping tears)

  204. ahh- I remember those years too- what a minute?! I’m still doing them!! (had my last baby at 48). But I also remember countless Sundays of spending almost the entire Mass downstairs in the classroom area letting my then-current toddler run around in the dark while the grown-ups got to sit upstairs and have a quiet hour of reflection. I would think at those times ….why am I here??? I could do this at home! Now, our youngest is 7 and sits fairly quietly through Mass (as long as she has a few favorite stuffies with her) and my boys are up there as altar servers, but I really miss the toddler years,…..sort of.
    Mary E

  205. There is a big gap between me and my younger siblings – so I relived my concert years by sitting through theirs. Now, I have friends who have children and sometimes, I am invited to see their concerts too.
    I tend to think that the out of synch playing and ‘wailing as choir’ is a key part of the overall concert charm and atmosphere *grin* Also, as it turns out, it seems that kids are not really that fussy about who is there to see them either – just as long as there is someone there to see them who they know. So I always get the, ‘Did you see, did you see?’ too!
    So if you bear the above concept in mind, all is not lost. As I am sure that I have seen posts about new babies at knit night recently?
    If you maintain those friendships, then you can go see your friends’ children perform on stage.
    It might not feel exactly the same but at least you can relax and enjoy it, as you wouldn’t have any bootlickers to keep an eye on and you can give mothers with exploding children a sympathetic look as they physically drag their child out into the hall!

  206. You know, my kids are 3 and 7 months, so I’ve still got all that ahead of me. But reading your post, I realized that it’s not all over (far from it!). If your daughters live near you when they have kids of their own, doncha think you’ll be attending your grandkids’ concerts as well? (I know, appalling thought when you’re 38 – sorry!).

  207. “Three concerts per season” — I feel your pain. I have felt the pain. I have Been There and Done That.
    At least the concerts got less painful once the kids were in college (think one music major out of six kids).

  208. You’ve forgotten the future joy (in 20 years or so) of Grandparenthood. There you can be a bigger public embarrassment, watch your other grandchildren do equally nasty things and remind the girls that they did it too and cheerfully get away with it by waving money at the grandkids and reminding the girls that you suckered Joe into babysitting for them. At least that’s what my mother does…

  209. Oh great! it’s 9am, I went to your blog to look for levity and I have buckets of tears flowing down my cheeks!!! My three have all done Band and Orchestra, so I know what all this is like. I’ve loved it and will truly miss it as the last Bandy graduates this year.
    What a Wonderful Life…

  210. We currently do two concerts a season and I find it’s one of the few things that makes me all teary eyed. They’re so cute–especially the dainty girl who scratches her bum in front of everyone.

  211. Like the others have said, this made me laugh and cry. I have four kids: 7, 9, 11 and 17 (I can’t plan, either). I, too, have had my share of the boot licking kind of incidents. (The embarrassment compounded by the sotto voce comment, “And she’s a teacher! Can’t she handle her own kids?”)
    Then one day, it happened, I realized that I was often THAT woman with THOSE kids. . .and I was liberated. Don’t get me wrong, I still punish misbehavior. I just don’t take the behavior personally.
    The very fact that that you even thought you might suck as a mom means that you don’t. Sucky moms don’t care at all.

  212. YOU GET SCHOOL CHRISTMAS CONCERTS????? Sheesh! You’re lucky. Mine’s now in SK and I have yet to see a school concert AT ALL! My son goes to a school in Ottawa and I have yet to experience anything that doesn’t begin with “the ministry has mandated….”

  213. I feel your pain…and your wistfulness. My youngest just started kindergarten, and I have started counting my ‘lasts’ as well.

  214. I remember those days fondly. Sadly, neither kid pursued music into high school. (They’re both in college now, though the oldest is graduating?!!! How did that happen?)
    I remember starting to complain about some event when the youngest was 8. Then I realized that I only had 10 more years of those events and they’d be over forever. It totally rearranged my thinking and I started treasuring the festivities, concerts, parties, etc.
    What I really miss are the Saturdays spent at town soccer games; fresh air, friends to chat with, shots to admire. “Did you see me, Mom??”

  215. Parents like you deserve an Unsung Heroine Award (no pun intended) πŸ™‚ Growing up, my parents both worked out of the home, yet never missed any of my Orchestra concerts (and at times I played in several different orchestras at a time) or any of my brother’s sporting events. I don’t know how they did it!
    As for the elementary school music teachers…mine was a hero…the woman who taught me to play the violin at age 8 is still a great friend (and still teaching, though middle school now) 22 years later. She is definitely an inspiration…I don’t know how she does it!!

  216. We’re just now getting to the school concert part of our lives–my oldest is in kindergarten. This will help me enjoy the constant pushnig, tickling, crying, and occasional piddle that happens when you put a bunch of tots up on stage in front of their parents, siblings, grandparents and everyone else’s! I’m thinking I should borrow Lene, as I’ve been trying to finish a pair of kilt hose for two weeks now. Can she schedule around swimming lessons, wrestling, Polar Express excursions, and a husband (the gift recipient) who will be home for the next two weeks? I’m thinking they’re not going to be a secret any longer. I’m going to have to knit in front of him.

  217. The whole package is bittersweet. Grade school Christmas concerts contain Good Tidings of Discomfort and Joy. Mine started out in choir, then progressed to ALL of the bands the school had: choir, jazz band, concert band, marching band and winter drumline. (The kids don’t want me knitting at the concert…I’m the only mom that does that.)
    Now that my youngest is a senior, high school band concerts are so much more tolerable. Regardless, (sigh) memories of grade school choir practices, hauling drums to school, and the teacher’s yelling still echoes in my mind!

  218. Omgoodness, I have 5 children 10, 8, 6, 4, & 2. Tell your hubby to do the math on that one :-)! We also have a preschool end of the year concert so they start @ 4 yrs old! The last 4 kids are boys and they all do inappropriate things to their bodies during the concerts I wish it was only boot lickin’!!! Anyway I am glad we are done w/dance recitals…but now we do have piano recitals and all the other stuff. Next week it is preschool special person tea, kindergartener’s Christmas progam..and lord knows what 2nd & 4th graders are up to! I am a very tired 42 year old!!

  219. What do people without kids do at Christmas time?
    You folks are kidding, right? :_( For the most part, we decorate our trees, we see our friends, we call our families. Some of us probably even go to the holiday concerts of nieces, nephews, and other young people we love, and we wax nostalgic, rather like other people. The childfree tend to lead pretty full lives.
    Personally, at the moment it’s that season and I’m stung, but on Christmas when my husband and I are cuddling on the couch and the room is all messy with wrapping paper… I’ll just be smiling. Maybe knitting. πŸ™‚

  220. I was a kid in chorus. I don’t remember my elementary and junior high music teachers, but I loved my high school teacher. He got me to overcome my shyness and join the dance/show choir as well as regular chorus, and he led both groups to first place in many competitions year after year. I can still remember most of the words to the Japanese lullaby about a dragonfly we sang one year. He was a wonderful, gifted man who helped me grow as a singer and a person. They are truly saints.

  221. What memories you have stirred up. My baby is graduating from college this spring, but I well remember the days of having 3 kids at different schools all performing in Christmas concerts, not just at school but in youth orchestra, too. But you know what I really miss? The youth hockey games.

  222. this post made me tear up. i haven’t started the concert scene yet (the boy’s only 4) but i know what i have to look forward to. wonderful post.

  223. And that, Steph, is why we teacher DO IT. That’s why we come back every year; the thought of the year when we finally aren’t there to do it is something we don’t want to face.
    I’ve been working with ninth grade boys in English class now since 1985. There’s not much they can think of doing that hasn’t already been done. I creep them (and myself) out when I say, “Don’t do thus and so!” before they even have started; I just see the gleam in the eye and know what follows. I, a 52 yo single female, can think like a ninth grade boy. I don’t know if I should be proud of that or very, very scared.

  224. As a new knitter with 3 beautiful grand daughters, let me tell you the fun is only beginning…

  225. Hey, no fair. I’m not allowed to cry at work. Sometimes the things that aggravate you most about raising children turn out to be the things that define what it is to be a parent. If it wasn’t so difficult being a parent , it wouldn’t be as important. They could just raise themselves.
    All of our concerts are finished now, and I do miss it terribly. (This may be because my son never did any actual boot-licking!)

  226. Just back from my nephew’s Holiday song-fest.
    Don’t worry. It wasn’t really the last one. I attended with Ian’s grandparents.
    Just when you think you’re safe and wax nostalgic…

  227. I have just found you and love love love your writing. You make me laugh out loud, and encourage me to speed up my knitting. This Christmas story was so true, any mother out there would relate.

  228. You know that night that you described where you have to take your toddler out because they want to be a BIG part of the night, when they are not part of THE night? You know that one? Right? Yeah you do, cause you described it up there. Well we had one of those nights last night. :sigh: Here’s to hoping the middle schooler’s concert goes more smoothly next week (either that or I can some how sneak out of the house and leave the toddler with daddy, and video tape it for them to enjoy later.) Naaaa what fun would that be?

  229. I worked my way through college as a teacher of ballet to tiny children. Every year in the recital, they would steal the show. It wasn’t just the nose-pickers, or the ones that got out there and stood completely frozen. It wasn’t even the ones who, um, lost control and peed on stage. It was just that, collectively, they were so cute that for years after I graduated and became a professional, working woman, I still taught ballet to the three-year-olds for the sheer comedic value. Love that age.
    I’m with Ken, though. My poor daughters will never be allowed by their Cuban father to ever have sex and thus make me a grandmother. It is his fervent wish that both of them be Lesbian –he can’t bear the thought of some BOY touching one of his princesses.
    I’m thinking that Denial is a good place for him to live, as long as MY eyes are wide open!

  230. I had the misfortune of becoming deathly ill (read: strep throat) the day before my first grade and first-ever Christmas Concert and I was SOOOO disappointed to miss it because the very reason for my existence on Planet Earth that year was to be on stage doing the pantomime and singing “Up on the Housetop”! *sigh* Alas, I am childless, therefore my Christmas Concerts are limited to what I see on TV. You’re so blessed to have sat through 400 of them. I totally get why you’d be waxing nostalgic.

  231. “My day was Tuesday December 17th, 1996.”
    I don’t remember the exact first day. My three are 4 years, 2.5 years, and will be 1 year next week. My memory got burned out a long time ago.

  232. Thanks for that post. Next week I am going to watch my second concert (my daughter is in first grade this year). And she is singing “Must Be Santa.” As I realize I’m finally past the nightwaking stage and relieved that’s over, I am embarking on a whole new stage of firsts. And seconds, and so on. At this rate I have about 25 holiday concerts left. And I will be bringing my socks, too (how on earth do you knit in the dark?)

  233. Hahaha! My daughter had her “Winter Arts Showcase” last night too. And as my partner and I sat through the worst ever rendition of Scarborough Fair and Down By The Riverside, I thought I MUST definitely remember my high school productions wrong. I thought the productions we did were pretty darn good, awesome even. Which would be a HUGE difference from last night’s performance.
    Yes, I must definitely be glossing over my own high school theatre memories. And how come these programs always last at least an hour longer than they’re supposed to, huh?

  234. I just wanted to say thank you for reminding me of really good times. And the really funny part, is that I never saw it from the parents point of view, I was the child up there looking for the parent and hoping I did a good job and made them proud. And as you go on with all the new firsts, even the ones that cause you pain, remember them, drink them up like really good wine, because someday you will want to remember them. And yes, the schools will let you come and visit to watch the little ones, and that will always make you smile.
    My parents are gone now, and the holidays are always difficult since I don’t have children or a husband. But you reminded me that I did have a family and that those memories are precious and will live for as long as my brain can remember so thank you so much. Thank you for all the great jokes and quips during the year. Thank you for allowing me to see into the inner workings of a family. Thank you for helping me to remember the sweet with the bitter, the joys through the tears and that even when I’m tearing my hair out over a pattern that I just don’t understand and cursing the designer of the pattern to Hades and back, that there is always some fun and humour to be found.
    Thanks Stephanie and have a safe and joyous Holiday Season!
    Your friend Ann in Maryland, USA

  235. My father is the instrumental music teacher for a small school district in New Hampshire. And there are days when I think he’d like to throw in the towel. But the funny thing–I think he prefers the little ones to the high school kids. The high school kids may play better, but they already know everything, making the pain-in-the-ass potential much higher. The little ones just want to learn how to play. And I think what gets my dad through year after year of “Hot Cross Buns” on trumpet, clarinet, saxophone, flute, and whatnot is the idea of passing the deep and rich love he has for music on to someone else.
    Even if this time of year is insanely high drama. And the thought of hearing “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” one more time is enough to bring on a round of tremors.

  236. God willing, there will be grandchildren x3 daughters. So, you’ll have the opportunity to do it all again in a “few” years. Have patience. :o)
    P.S. I’d probably leave comments more often, but when I see the number of others who have commented, and I know the amount of time it takes to read them all, I feel guilty for taking up your time.

  237. I’m 41 and have no kids. My nieces and nephews live far away. I hadn’t gone to a Christmas play/concert since I was in them. Then this year, a distant cousin invited me to come watch her 6 year old son perform in a Christmas play. I LOVED it. It was exactly as it should be. I’m hoping I get invited back next year!

  238. You are such a good mom, going to all the concerts. I know some parents can’t always make it due to work , but I remember in school parents not showing up to our concerts just because they didn’t feel like going. My parents both worked but they went to every single orchestra concert,and every football game when I was in marching band, even the ones that were 3 hours away. We haven’t always seen eye to eye, but I will never forget that they made the effort to go to every single one,and when my wee ones are old enough I plan on going to all of theirs.

  239. Thanks for reminding me of my first grade holiday concert. I was so proud as my friend and I were chosen to sing “Silent Night”. All was going well ’til I belted out “Sheep in heavenly fleece”. I couldn’t understand why the audience erupted in laughter. It was foreshadowing for my future infatuation with yarn and my inability to get lyrics correct (who knew it’s not “One Winged Dove” by Stevie Nicks?). Take care and Happy scheduled Holidays!

  240. What is the pattern for the argyles? I am looking for a pattern that doesn’t involved adding the thin line running through the diamonds after, but just incorporates it into the knitting. And somehow I am having no luck.

  241. Stephanie, you’re brilliant. You will have a long legitimate writing career ahead of you if you so choose …and for all our sakes, I hope you do. Many thanks!
    I too would love argyle tips… flat knit or tube? Duplicate stitch or as-you-go? Charting links or tips?
    …and if I’m realllly good I hope that I will be reincarnated as one of your grandchildren …ahhhhhh knit bliss … and I promise not to lick any boots : )

  242. This one brought back years’ worth of repressed memories of dance recitals that made me want to poke my eyes out. That’s the danger of bringing your knitting along.
    Cool socks! Where did you get the pattern?

  243. Okay, I read this 2 days ago just hours before I trooped off to watch my first grader in his concert. It was First grade only (big school, maybe 60 of them in that grade) and they were adorable in their little Santa hats. When they started to sing “Must Be Santa” it was difficult to hide my inappropriate laughter. (They did really cute hand movements with it. My son was so proud he remembered them all.) But living in California the ubiquitous song is “Feliz Navidad.” All of the kids know the first two words really well, the rest . . . is a little mumbled. Because no one seems to be able to play it on the piano it is always accompanied by a really loud recording, which means we go through the same four lines about five times. And they are so proud of themselves.
    Have to say it was wonderful. A lot more fun than the amateur version of the Nutcraker I sat through last night. (I didn’t have kids in that one, so it wasn’t as rewarding.)

  244. We just had our concert at the Elementary school I work out. Every 3rd, 4th and 5th grader learns violin. I have to say, as the violin teacher, these concerts are part of what make it so worthwhile. You and the students have struggled, sometime just with basic behaviors, and somehow they all seem to get it together enough to play the concert. Plus, actually seeing and talking to the parents makes a big difference. Just hearing that the work I do is appreciated is enough to keep me coming back.
    Thanks for the great post!
    PS I don’t think you’ll have to worry about future concerts. That’s what grand children are for.

  245. Oh, the strings. I started violin in 4th grade, and at the first all-school district concert that year, my mother reports that my little brother and his friend sat through the whole thing with their jackets zipped up over their heads.
    But I still play (viola, now – 45 years later) and met my husband in community orchestra (a string bass player), and we agree that as painful as the early years of learning strings can be, if you want to be proud of music later, you’ve got to go through the early stuff!

  246. Never say never.
    My mum believed that she’d never sit through another of those concerts… and then just this past week, the youth orchestra I work for asked me to play triangle for Haydn’s Toy Symphony, so there she was again… (up in the balcony with her camera, cringing at the semi-tone flat oboe player.)
    Good luck with the argyles!

  247. Two words: grand children. πŸ™‚
    I’ve got one in the 1st grade, one in JK and a 4 month old infant … our Christmas concert is on Wednesday …

  248. When my son performed in his last jazz concert at high school I felt very sad. I’d really enjoyed hearing those young people play – they were swinging, and having such a great time. Good memories!

  249. What a lovely post! I have a grade 4 DD and and an infant son. By the time DD is in high school DS will be starting kindergarten. How sweet that is. I love that DD’s school has an afternoon performance for us poor mothers with babies and toddlers. There is nothing like a wailing tired baby at 8pm and it’s only intermission;)

  250. Since school opened this year I’ve been saying, “how did Miss B get to sixth grade already?” and wondering how soon I will have grandchildren whom I can help with cutting out snowflakes and to whose dreadful concerts I can go. On the one hand, I want it to be at least 15 years so she can finish grad school first, which would make it more like 20 years until they show any interest in snowflakes, but on the other hand, that’s an awfully long time.
    Not that I’m not looking forward to Miss B’s further adventures — our high school’s drama productions (at least the one we recently went to) and sports teams are pretty amazing — but how can it go by so slowly and so fast at the same time?

  251. I’m beginning to get worried that the SCHEDULE said, “If you get behind on the Christmas knitting, don’t blog until after Christmas…”
    Please come back!

  252. Yes, Stephanie, I do believe they’ll let you come in to watch the little ones…
    (I did gag just a little… little boot lickin’ toddler… btw? she must be thrilled about all of us knowing that little tidbit, eh?)

  253. You made me snork coffee AND made my eyes leak, in the space of three minutes.
    I’m so glad my parents came to my school productions, no matter how awful I was.

  254. That wasn’t the last one. No way.
    In a few years, you will be GRANDMA and get to start all over again … without having to worry about all the babies and toddlers, etc.
    Life is good.

  255. As a teen I can safely say I love it when my mum stands up and waves at my concerts its funny and gives me something to grin about ( i would NEVER let her know that though)

  256. I know what you mean.
    I’ve loved every single concert I’ve gone to for Beavis, from Kindergarden on up to 8th grade … and each one was amazing in it’s own way. Four more years of high school orchestra and soccer games, then who knows? I hope to have another one to keep me busy, too. πŸ™‚
    And squawky string sections? Are amazing when they actually start sounding like real string sections!

  257. I have had seasonal school concerts since 1988 as my kids range from 24-11. My youngest daughter’s (age 13) band concert is tonight. She has to be there at 6:30 but her part doesn’t happen until 8!
    My mother said not to worry there will always be grandchildren’s concerts you MUST go to!

  258. Ah, you made me cry! (Residual tears from the Christmas concerts this week perhaps). I’ve been doing this for 11 years now, and my youngest joins the throng next year. So, seven more years to go. A full adult’s worth of Christmas concerts – that, I did not count on!

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