School Assemblies and Other Forms of Torture
by Christine Waldman
None of us go into parenthood with blinders on. Every woman knows of the pain involved in childbirth as well as the difficulties involved in raising a family. What many are not aware of, though, is the pain that awaits us when our children start school. What I’m referring to, of course, are school assemblies.
The most torturous of all assemblies has to be the school band concert. As if it isn’t painful enough to have to pay monthly to rent your child’s instrument and to be made to listen to them practice, we are also expected to sit through their concerts.
I was willing to put up with it because I wanted to encourage my daughter’s natural musical abilities. Don’t get me wrong, I hold no aspirations of her becoming a professional clarinet player. I just figured that she should learn to play an instrument and read music before she reaches her teens and her brain completely shuts down in the pursuit of boys.
Fortunately, I have developed an arsenal of skills for dealing with the challenges of parenthood. My best skill is tuning out the noise associated with having kids. I feel very proud that I haven’t developed a nervous tick from listening to my daughter practice her clarinet. So it was with supreme confidence that I thought I was prepared for her first concert.
What I didn’t take into account was that there would be 40 kids playing at the same time. As they began to play, I initially sat in stunned silence; the sheer volume and cacophony of the song messed with my equilibrium, making me dizzy. After my head cleared, my next reaction was jut plain giddiness and I couldn’t stop laughing. I think I was overwhelmed by the fact that I, not only would have to try and make it through this concert, but that I had dozens more to look forward to in the future.
And that’s just one child. I have 2 more that could someday be dying to play the violin or tuba!
But being the dutiful parent, I fought the impulse to bolt for the door and instead, clapped loudly after each song and was very proud when I actually was able to pick out a melody. By far, my favorite song was the one that sounded as if injured waterfowl were allowed to join in.
As excruciating as some of the concerts have been, and enough time has passed that I have been to several, nothing compares to agony of sitting through a school play.
In fourth grade, my daughter had a speaking role in the play. This was the last year in the long career of the music teacher who directed the performance. Because of this, he decided to have the kids perform his opus which was a particular Disney classic featuring large cats. It is also a complete rip-off of my favorite childhood cartoon – Kimba.
My parents make the mistake of agreeing to come to the performance. To say that the play was lengthy is putting it mildly. The only other play that could have been longer would be a Broadway version of War and Peace. It was so long that they practically had to use the Jaws of Life to get all of those creaky grandparents out of their seats afterwards.
The performance so exhausted the entire school that they haven’t put on a play since and no one seems to mind.
Now my daughter is in the middle school, so I have a whole new school assembly experience to look forward to. The middle school building is over 50 years old and has no air conditioning and has one of the most antiquated auditoriums known to mankind. They have wooden seats which means not only will the assembly be painful, but your back will be, too. As if getting a herniated disc wasn’t bad enough, I made the mistake of looking up. The ceiling is sprayed with an acoustic material that resembled rotten cottage cheese. I sat through the entire assembly, scared that parts of it would fall on my head and give me cooties.
The first assembly was for the middle school open house. The principal was as outdated as the auditorium and kept talking about what a grand time our kids would be having at the school. He also assured us that it was normal if our children got the heebie-jeebies over starting middle school. All I know is that the ceiling was giving me the heebie-jeebies.
I got through the time by passing notes to my friend and giggling. I think that we were channeling some juvenile behavior from the thousands of adolescent butts that have sat in those chairs over the past 50 years.
Thankfully, they are building a new school, so I only have a year to enjoy band concerts, choral performances, as well as the various school functions beneath the cottage cheese ceiling. But being a seasoned parent, I now know to wear a hat to stave off the heebie-jeebies, and maybe even some earplugs.