Nativity

Ah, the school nativity play.

That time where parents struggle politely for the best vantage point to watch their sweet child parade onto the stage with all the others. The tinsel, and cobbled together costumes. The angel so busy looking out for her parents that she carries on walking and nearly trips over a shepherd. The child who says their words so quietly that no-one can hear. Another who shouts down the microphone making everyone jump. Teachers scurrying around organising everything yet trying to stay unobtrusive as this is the chance for the children to shine. It’s guaranteed to set off the happy tears in all but the grumpiest of Scrooges.

I so wanted this to be a positive post. I was looking forward to the nativity and watching Pudding join in with his peers in his own fashion. I pictured him smiling and waving, going in the wrong direction and making us laugh.

img_6929He had been cast as one of the stars and we’d agreed beforehand that his special chair would be brought in to the hall. This meant that he could be strapped in safely when waiting rather than having the danger of falling off the stage. I knew this would make it very obvious how different he is from the others but decided it was for the best. His difference was highlighted even more when he wouldn’t allow his star costume anywhere near him, so was the only one in school uniform.

It was clear from the off that he wasn’t happy. Bribery with food worked for a while as it usually does. He did enjoy ringing bells at the end, and joined in the dancing very briefly. But as I watched him pulling another star’s costume and hitting the TA behind him, I was crying and it wasn’t the happy tears. I don’t like being hit by him myself and I love him. While I sat up there in the audience powerless to do anything about it I felt worse and worse. How long would others put up with that treatment before they say ‘enough is enough’ and ask politely whether this is the right place for him?

Having a child with additional needs is full of ups and downs of course. And those moments when it is hit home to you quite how different they are from other children their age are definitely responsible for many of the down times.

Thank heavens for others who understand. Later I bumped into someone else who has a child on the school’s SEN register. I told her that I had cried at the nativity and not in a good way, and she instantly knew what I meant. Though our children’s diagnoses are not the same, we share many aspects of experiencing difference in a ‘normal’ world. It was definitely a silver lining in that cloudy day and helped me put things back in perspective.

Pudding’s TA told me the next week that it hadn’t worked out as well for him as the team had planned and how bad they had all felt. But I didn’t blame them at all. They’ve done a fantastic job at making him included – including using Makaton during the performance to wish everyone a Happy Christmas. If anyone I blame myself. He had been off school the previous two days because of a cold, but I thought he was ok that morning. Now of course I have to ask myself whether I really thought that, or whether it was just because I wanted him to be. If he’d been feeling more himself he’d probably have revelled at the chance to perform and show off to an audience, but as it was he just didn’t want to be there.

When Pudding first started school I insisted that I wasn’t sacrificing him on the altar of inclusivity. If mainstream wasn’t right for him then we’d look at other options. What I need to remember is that this applies to the little things too. Inclusion isn’t always the right thing. Not if it makes him unhappy. I have my own hopes and dreams for him, but ultimately I want him to be happy. And if he is, then I will be too.

 

Comments

  1. I love this post for so many reasons. I love it because as a mum I understand where you are coming from. I love it because as a teacher you are asking the questions you are. But mostly I love it because as I read this post I see a mum who just wants the best for her son. Sending love and hope for the merriest of a Christmas x

    1. HuntersMum

      Oh, thank you, Victoria! We will have a ball, I’m sure. (Though strangely it’s the first time Pudding hasn’t got a ball as a present!)

  2. Oh yes. I’ve been there. Inclusion is great when it works, when it means doing what works for the child… sometimes we’ve had to face the fact that nothing will work for the child at that particular moment, or we just haven’t quite figured out what will make it work. Right now I know that some of my school mum friends re muttering about the fact that they have to go back out for a show at 7pm in Church, but most of them will smile with tenderness and enjoy seeing their child take part in an important event of the year. I’ll be staying home, as our girl decided she would not be a part of it this time – whether that’s because it’s in Church for the first time rather than her familiar school, or because she wasn’t given a part that she wanted, I’ll never know because she’s not the best at communicating… 🙄 So I’ll miss seeing my friends’ children take part too, and I won’t be able to laugh with them about the mistake that little Jonny made, so I end up feeling excluded too. It hurts. But I’ll enjoy sitting in with a glass of wine instead 😌

    1. HuntersMum

      Hope it was a good wine! My treat of choice is Hotel Chocolat…

  3. Mumtolandw

    Thank you for posting this. I am a mum of an 8 year old with special needs and work as a 1:1 LSA with a year R child. I have sat and cried for my child when the nativity didn’t go to plan and have spent time working out how to make the nativity inclusive for the child I work with. When both have succeeded in their own terms I could burst with pride. Your post resonates strongly with me. All the little steps are the achievements.

    1. HuntersMum

      Thank you! You’re right – little steps mean so much more with our children.

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