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Stories from the journey of fatherhood & brotherhood

What I Learned At A Preschool Christmas Play

attention christmas fatherhood Jan 08, 2020

We were 30 minutes early and already the first 15 rows of seats were taken. The excitement in the air countered the familiar weight of the Christmas season. Parents, grandparents, and friends chatted while antsy kids hung on the backs of church pews like monkey bars. All were gathered to see the critically acclaimed and long anticipated event of the year:

The Open Arms Preschool Christmas Production

For weeks our four year old daughter had practiced songs for tonight. The time had finally come - with plenty of excitement and some nerves. Two years ago we learned with her older sister that stage fright is a worthy adversary best fought with a dessert bribe at the end of the show.

The lights soon dimmed and a flock of four year olds began to amble down the center aisle towards the stage. All the adults in choreographed fashion turned backwards to watch the entrance of their kids. Their faces craned and darted around anything that blocked their view. A friendly and self-oblivious wave shook from their hands as they saw their child. No wonder the kids walked down the aisle with noticeable pride.

This production was not the traditional Christmas pageant. There were no authentic costumes, forgotten lines, or young Mary and Joseph awkwardly wondering how to act as parents, let alone a married couple. Instead, the show was a hybrid approach of performed songs and a few acted scenes narrated by the teacher.

The kids found their way to the stage and began to sing. Once again our seats towards the back offered a unique perspective. Overcome by the flood of cute innocence spewing from the front of the room, parents scurried to the sides for a better view or pulled out their phones. I followed suit and took an out of focus poorly lit picture that captured a third of my daughter’s face. I wondered if the allure of a well taken picture and justification of wanting to remember the past had removed my enjoyment of the present.

Familiar carols were sung as well as a few new ones, like the reindeer hokey-pokey and the Santa Hula - complete with costume change into grass skirts, Hawaiian shirts, and sunglasses. Hand motions accompanied many of the songs and were a welcome energy outlet for a few toe headed boys whose propensity to mischief was palpable from across the room. The kids were as sincere as they were self-unaware.

My eyes were locked on my daughter. I saw her quickly crack a smile to her friend standing next to her. I noticed her intent gaze as she followed her teacher’s hand motions. It felt like looking through binoculars and adjusting the focus so all I could see was her, at a hyper-clear level.

Half way through the program I noticed this difference. I wasn’t multitasking, I wasn’t carefully metering out my attention like a scarce resource. There was no internal competition between a looming to-do list and my own agenda. I saw the abiding goodness unfolding in front of me.

For that hour my daughter, and nothing else, had my eyes. I’ve wondered since then whether I need costumes and Christmas carols to focus my gaze. Doesn’t the same opportunity await during my kids’ trick exhibition on our trampoline or in an honest question offered as we drive between errands?

If I am to pursue and affirm my kid’s hearts, I must give them my eyes. Not a back and forth glance between them and my phone, my undivided and unwavering attention.

When did you last give your sincere, deep attention?

Jesse French
Restoration Project Chief of Next Steps

 

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