The Donkey Lesson

Joni started nursery school this year, and we sent her to the school that we want her to go to full time when her compulsory education starts next August. We didn't really expect it to be so much like school at first, and when we had to scrambled to get a uniform together for her, and then sent her off on her "first day", it all hit home - she's going to school. For real, like... really going to school.

Since then our involvement in the school has increased a lot - fayres, photo buying, donating to fundraising... it can all be quite overwhelming, in the end. It wasn't until the week before when Connie and I realised that she would be taking part in the Nativity Play.

I've written before about religious schools on this blog before and found the odd, and certainly at odds with Connie's own secular schooling, but JOni has been sent to a Church of England school. This is partly because almost all the schools near to us are that type of school, but also the "best" school we found was the one she went to and it is a CofE school. Connie and I are not religious in any way, but find that for Joni school and religion are linked closely and when the times comes to tell her our beliefs, I hope that she understands and appreciates them.

Hyptocritical, maybe.

My Nativity is something that I distinctly remember; it is one of the earliest memories that I can pinpoint due to the age and time. I was the Inn Keeper who didn't have room, but then gave them space in my barn for the little Big Guy to be born. I remember it vividly; pretty sure I wore a tea towel on my head and my dress gown, so only slightly culturally insensitive. But the whole thing is remembered by me quite fondly - one remembers the strangest things, and I remember the fact that the angels were pretty high and mighty about their costumes at the time.

Joni is, sometimes, quite hard to get information out of like most kids. When we learned there was a play she was asked what role she was and it took a long time to get it out of her - but in the end we found out she was the Donkey, and had ears and a tail. Connie and I were perplexed a bit - what kind of role is the Donkey, for Pete's sake!

On the day of the play Connie and I both were worried that Joni had been shafted. I know, goddam helicopter parents, but that's where your head goes. Joni came out third after Mary and Joseph wearing simply her school uniform and the aforementioned ears and tail. She was beaming, so proud, and so was I. And then the rest of the classes costumes were all brilliant. And for the briefest heart-aching second I was worried she'd been picked as the donkey for a nefarious reason.

Obviously, I'd forgotten the key impact the Donkey has on the story. Mary and Joseph start making their way to Bethlehem from Nazareth, and Joni has a starring role, leading them all around the classroom, whilst everyone sings along to her song. I could've kicked myself for being so petty and silly when thining about this little play, but those moments as she's walking around, parents laughing that she's storming ahead of the Happy Couple. She was even there when Josephy and Mary went around looking for a bed for the night, and then sat at the front next to the Baby Jesus, like Frank used to do when Joni was born and he'd endlessly be scanning the room checking she was still here, or in her little crib.

I realised that I was putting my own projections on Joni, as she was having a blast. Waving at us and giving us the thumnbs up, smiling and being silly with her tail, she didn't care. And neither should have Connie or I, and it was a learning experience. As long as we give Joni the confidence that I never had as a kid to be involved in things like these without any insercurities, maybe it'll cure our own!

I leaned in towards Connie, as Etta was wrestling out of my arms and yelping at the amusement she had when no one in the room was paying attention to her, the fools, and said "This must be what it's like when your kid is up for an Oscar".