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The Nutcracker – Oh No, not HIM again

by Whatever Girl on December 10, 2009 · 2 comments

The lights have just been lowered in the Royal Theatre and, as per usual, we have just made it to our seats in time. I take a moment to sort Zoe out and to remind Jacob not to rest his size 11 feet on the  seat back in front of him. We settle into our seats (I am happy to see that the two next to us are empty) and wait expectantly for the curtain to rise.

We are here for our semi-annual pilgrimage to The Nutcracker Ballet. I love everything about it – the story, the costumes, how Christmassy it is. My mother took me every year when I was little so when I became a parent, I vowed I would do the same thing. I waited until Jacob was 4 or 5 to take him for the first time; he was a typical little boy and became restless half way through the second act, but, with the help of various treats, managed to stick it out until the end of the show.

When Zoe was a baby she didn’t have quite the same temperament as Jacob. Not as… calm, shall we say, so we left her at home with dad. When she turned 4, I made the decision to take her. She was very excited and got all dressed up in her cute little dress. Everything went fairly smoothly until the start of Act 2.

Now, as a child, and an adult, I had always preferred Act 2. I love all the various dances: the Snowflakes, the Spanish Chocolate, the Chinese Tea, the Arabian Coffee or whatever it is, the Ribbon Candy and of course the Sugar Plum Fairy and all her accompanying little sugar plums. Act 1 is lovely as well but I have never been able to follow it properly: How exactly is Herr Drosselmeyer related to Clara and why does he always look so creepy? And who, specifically, gets turned into the life-sized Nutcracker? And why is there a Prince? Is he the Prince of Nutcrackers? I don’t really get it.

It was, in fact, the Prince, who caused all the commotion that day when Zoe was 4. She was becoming increasingly restless as the various Desserts danced out their roles. Then the sighing and rolling her eyes started. Then she started flinging her head around. I tried various tactics to quieten her: more treats, bribes, threats, ignoring. None of it worked. At one point, as the Ribbon Candy was finishing up, Zoe turned to me and in a loud voice asked: “Why did you ever bring me to this?” Why indeed, I wondered to myself. Jacob tried his best to silence her by giving her all his remaining smarties which did buy us a few minutes. Looking back, I should really have chosen that moment to make a graceful exit. But no, I HAD to stick around and see the stupid Sugar Plum Fairy (who I normally love) do her stupid little pas de deux with the Prince. They did their thing, then both of them flitted off stage. Moments later, the Prince appeared at Stage Left, arms held aloft in a pose, buttocks tighter than I don’t know what, toes pointed. The music flourished, then fell silent as he lifted his chin slightly and we all waited breathlessly for him to leap into his solo. All of us except Zoe who, instead, chose that exact moment to declare loudly : “Oh no, not HIM again”. I swear everyone seated on the main floor of the Royal Theatre turned and stared. A twitter ran through the audience. If the Prince himself hadn’t heard her, I’d be very surprised. Mortified, I turned to Zoe, scooped her up, bark-whispered at Jacob to grab our coats, bashed a few heads with my purse on the way out, and fled the theatre, leaving a trail of scowls in my wake. We had just cleared the auditorium when Zoe burst into a wail. I burst out the doors and onto the sidewalk just in time as she reached a crescendo.

Needless to say, I gave the Nutcracker a miss the year after. She clearly wasn’t ready. Or maybe it was me that wasn’t ready. Or perhaps I didn’t want the ushers to recognize me. Whatever, I wasn’t going.

So it was with some degree of interest this year that I observed the two empty seats next to us fill up with a mother and her young son who must have been about 3 or 4 yrs old. He followed a fairly predictable pattern for a little boy: attentive, intrigued by the rats and soldiers, slightly bored, appeased with candy, more bored, very bored, extremely bored and, finally, upside down on the seat with his bum in the air and legs splayed to either side. At one point, he was kicking Zoe so hard I had to lean over and give him a death look. He stopped only to reposition himself so that he could squeeze her arms hard enough so that she would give up her armrest. His mother seemed strangely unconcerned with his behaviour and would calmly lean over at longish intervals and ask him nicely not to practice his kung fu moves on the armrest. He would stop for a moment before moving onto disassembling the underside of the seat, with sound effects. Or that was what it looked like anyway.

Finally, right on schedule at the dance of the Sugar Plums, he stood up on his seat, leaned forward and grabbed the chairs in front of him. He had done this a few times before but had always stopped at his mother’s (intermittent) scolding. Not this time. He was not letting go for any amount of candy. He then got off his seat, all the better to shake the one in front of him. This sudden action caused a pleasing slamming noise as his own chair shot back into the closed position. He managed to do this routine several times before enough people turned around and issued the ‘theatre-glare’ in his direction that his mother finally sighed, picked up her stuff, performed a modified ‘Swoop’ manoeuvre and left the theatre.

I had felt a certain amount of annoyance building up in me as we endured his pummelling and kicking, but fortunately, before I could get too smug, I had remembered my own experience 4 years ago. I managed an understanding smile at the mother on her way out. She was not smiling back at anyone. I felt for her. Zoe, on the other hand, and a few other long-suffering audience members in the immediate vicinity were feeling something entirely different and uttered audible sighs of relief as the twosome made their way out.

So if you are planning on taking your 3 or 4yr old to the theatre, might I offer a few suggestions?

  • Suggestion 1: go swimming instead
  • Suggestion 2: if you must go to the theatre, choose something kid friendly.
  • Suggestion 3: bring lots of treats like lifesavers, gummy bears, and chocolate that you can slip into their grubby little hands one at a time. 
  • Suggestion 4: Do not bring: toy cars, chocolate covered coffee beans, Doritos, or carrot sticks. Really.
  • Suggestion 5: Convince all your friends and family to buy all the seats around you so that when your child flings his string cheese across the theatre, it will be his Grandma’s head that he hits.
  • Suggestion 6: Sit on the aisle, or better yet, on the aisle at the very back: it makes it much easier to perform the swoop manoeuvre and minimizes the number of head bashes you will inflict with your purse.

Or just say ‘whatever’, hope that people like me who are sitting around you will remember what it is like to have, and to have been a child, and just chill out, relax, and enjoy.

Well, we always have hope, don’t we?

Thanks for reading,

Cheers,

Jane

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Our Little Pickle December 10, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Tips above also applicable to husbands, lol! 🙂

Mommy Cooks December 11, 2009 at 11:19 am

Love this post – hilarious. I feel less guilty about our decision to leave our 4 year old son with the neighbour this year.

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