This weekend Patriot participated in his first Christmas musical, and made his first onstage appearance (without Mom or Dad). He did great! He loved performing -- you could tell. We had one hiccup that gave me a parenting dilemma, though. Let me tell you about it.

They had three performances this weekend. One was Saturday night for some inner-city kids and any grandparents, etc who couldn't come on Sunday. The gang all came to see him at this show and he was wonderful. The other two were for our two services Sunday morning. The early service was good, he performed as practiced. The second service was a different story.

On the last song of the last performance, Patriot decided to pull his shirt up to his armpits and dance around. I was horrified. I have never seen him do this before. Ever. Why did he pick the church stage in front of a packed house to show off his abs? I have no idea. Then he started tugging at the waist of his pants. I was dumbstruck -- frozen in time and space. I was in the audience on the other side of the room and could never get to him in time to stop what might happen. This was the first time I've ever seen him misbehaving but was totally unable to do anything about it. The crowd thought it was hilarious. I didn't find it as funny.

(Side note: Matt had to come out and close the show by thanking all the volunteers, so he was backstage during all of this. He had no idea it was his son causing the commotion. If only he could have seen and stopped it.)

The show remained G-rated, but that didn't stop the jokes. I sat shellshocked in the auditorium as people filed past. "Didn't know Patriot was an exhibitionist," laughed someone who doesn't have kids yet. "Really enjoyed the strip tease," joked someone whose kids are grown and must have forgotten what this moment was like.

Before I went to pick Patriot up, I took a moment in the empty auditorium to collect my thoughts and pray about how to handle this situation. Some of you are probably thinking I was making a mountain out of a molehill. Maybe, but please remember that Matt and I have been in children's ministry for a long time. We've seen lots of misbehavior, from kids and their parents. We've seen parents in this situation compliment their kid for "expressing himself." We've seen parents get mad at the church for allowing their child to act this way (still don't understand that one). We've seen parents pull their children out of preformances, never to participate in a childrens musical again. I knew none of those options seemed appropriate for us.

But what was?

Funny thing is that I never expected to be in this situation myself. In all the times I'd critiqued other parents, I'd never once thought about what I'd do. I didn't think my kid would ever behave that way. This is pretty unlike me. I tend to spend my moments sitting in waiting rooms or at stoplights thinking about "what would I do if . . ." Kind of a sick hobby, I guess. But I'd never run through this scenerio.

Here's what I did.

The first thing I did was hug Patriot and tell him what a good job he did singing on stage and remembering all the motions. I told him I loved seeing him smile really big on stage. "But then you made a mistake, Patriot. You lifted your shirt onstage, and that wasn't the right thing to do. We sing to show God how much we love him, and being silly onstage is not respectful towards God. Mr. Tim and the other kids worked hard to make this a nice show. We need to go tell Mr. Tim you're sorry for being silly and ask him if he'll let you be in the show again next year, so you can try to do better."

Patriot didn't like the idea of apologizing to Mr. Tim, but discipline isn't supposed to be fun, right? We made our way through the crowd with all their jokes and found Mr. Tim. It wasn't Patriot's best apology, but we got through it. Mr. Tim didn't even realize Patriot was the kid everyone was talking about, but once he stopped laughing he accepted Patriot's apology.

Next we went to apologize to Daddy. We got through that one, too, but not without some drama. I could see in his eyes that Patriot was starting to like all the attention he was getting over this misdeed, so we made a hasty exit from the building.

I will never speak of this incident again. I think at this moment we have the perfect balance of "what I did was wrong" without entering the "my wrong behavior got me a lot of attention" zone. I'm afraid any more attention might push him into the danger zone for more misbehavior next time. If you're local, please don't mention it to him.

Parents, have you ever had to deal with this type of behavior? How did you do it?
Church workers, what have you seen parents do that seemed appropriate?

Below is video of Patriot being good onstage yesterday. He's the second boy from the left in the front row. You can see the light in his eye while he performs. We really might have a rockstar on our hands. (Sorry the video quality is so bad. I hope it doesn't make your eyes bleed looking at it.) Rumor is that footage of "the incident" is on Facebook already, but I'm not telling you where.

5 Responses
  1. John Says:

    I don't know what to tell you. From a very early age, both of you girls were absolutely serious about all of your performances... both church and school. It must be the boy in Patriot coming out!

  2. JTapp Says:

    I appreciate your reflections on discipline. I think that's wise.

    My parents might not have had the good idea of having me apologize to the director, but I know my hide would have been tanned. :^)

    I'm watching Charlie Brown Christmas on ABC right now and hearing Shroeder scream about "No, no no! You've got to have order, and discipline! You have to have respect for your director!"

  3. JTapp Says:

    Actually, it was Lucy screaming. I was typing and not watching.

  4. Mom Says:

    I think you handled it well. I'm not sure what I would have done...I tend to ignore things and hope they go away. I'm proud of you for making a good disciplining (sp?)(or is it even a word?)decision.

  5. jonathan Says:

    Boys only do those things they see Dad doing at home, right?