To the Parents Who Leave the School Concert Early | This West Coast Mommy
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To the Parents Who Leave the School Concert Early

It’s holiday concert season again. All the “Jingle Bells” and “Frosty the Snowman” you can handle (and more)!

My kids and all their classmates have been practicing for their concert for weeks. Like a lot of parents, I’ve listened patiently through dozens of run throughs of the same Christmas carols over and over again the past few days.

Finally, after all the rehearsals, tonight was the night. The girls got out their fancy holiday dresses, and I did their hair. Since it was a special event, Tee got to wear a hint of blush and some lip gloss, and Kay got to wear one of my necklaces. They were both so excited!

Hubby and I were running late but managed to squeak into the gym just before the first class walked onto the stage. It was standing room only so we scooched into the back with the other parents who had arrived too late to snag a folding chair and got ready to stand for the next hour.

First up were the 5-year-olds singing “Little Snowflake.” You know that one, right?

Snowflake, snowflake, little snowflake.
Falling, falling, falling, falling, falling,
falling, falling, falling, falling…
falling on my head.

We all clapped appreciatively, but before the applause was even over, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to let the couple behind me get by, then someone else, and then a stream of parents walking past me, down the aisle, and out the door. As the next class was filing on the stage and getting ready to sing “Frosty the Snowman”, they continued leaving from all over the gymnasium. At least 30 parents walked out.

At first I was confused. Did they know something I didn’t? Were they going to pick up their kids and bring them back? As far as I knew, all the kids were being supervised by their teachers until the concert was over. I looked around and saw they were carrying their coats, umbrellas, bags, and purses.


These parents weren’t coming back. They’d come to see their child sing, and now that their child was done, they were leaving.

Seriously? When did this become okay? Maybe I’m being too blunt here, but it was rude and self-centred and disrespectful to all the kids who had worked so hard on their performances.

I understand that some parents really do have a good reason to leave early. Perhaps you or your child has special needs. Maybe the dog is sick and you need to get home right away. Maybe your baby is too fussy to stay any longer. I get it. I know there are lots of possible circumstances why some couldn’t stay an extra 30 minutes to watch and clap for the other kids. (Please remember, we’re not talking about a three-hour commitment here. The entire thing from beginning to end was less than an hour.)

But I doubt all the parents leaving had reasons like that though. Most of them had simply seen what they’d come to see and just didn’t feel like sticking around to watch anyone else’s kids stumble through some more Christmas carols.

Was I really looking forward to yet another version of “Winter Wonderland” where half the kids had forgotten the words, and the other half had forgotten the tune? Probably not. But there’s a social agreement when it comes to school concerts. We sit and listen and clap for your kid, and you’re supposed to do the same for everyone else’s.

As each class finished their song, parents continued to leave, usually walking out during the next class’ performance. By the end of the 50 minute concert, only about half of the audience was left. My 8-year-old daughter’s class went last, and she noticed. She noticed that the gym had been full to bursting at the start and was now half empty. She noticed all the empty seats. She told me she watched people walking out while she was on stage, and it hurt her feelings.

Later on, as we cuddled before bed, she whispered to me that she’d felt like crying, but wasn’t I proud that she’d tried really hard to stay focused on her song instead? It broke my heart.

To those parents and grandparents who stayed all the way to the end, thank you.

To those who didn’t stay, next time I hope you’ll do things differently. It’s not even an hour. Is it really too much to give up 45 minutes once a year so the other children don’t feel snubbed like that? Wouldn’t you want us to do the same for your child?

And if you really do have to leave early, then for the love of Pete stand near the exit door so you can go quietly and unobtrusively. Don’t sit in the middle of the row and make everyone stand up to let you through while the next group of kids is trying to sing their song as they watch you walk out.

Next year, it could be your kid who’s last to go on the stage. Even if my kids are finished, I promise to stay and clap for yours, and I hope all the other parents do too.

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  • There are a lot of parents who cannot take the whole time off. I can’t tell you how many times when my kids were younger that I only had the 30 minute lunch to use and that included travel time. Now, I work from home, and I go early to get seats to save for my mom and my husband, who both use their lunch hour to come. But our concerts are an hour long, and you have to arrive early to get a seat. I am usually there for more than 90 minutes. Plus, at our school usually you have to park blocks away, so there is the walking to get there and back to your car and still have time to get back to work on time. 90% of the parents I know who leave, aren’t doing it because they are selfish, but because of work requirements/meetings, lack of available time off, etc. They feel lucky to be able to go to see their kids at all, as we all know people who cannot get the time off and usually miss the concerts and programs.

  • Fortunately, this wasn’t a problem at my sons’ elementary school. Instead of having one big Christmas or spring concert, each grade had their own concert at staggered times throughout the year. Therefore, our sons were on the stage for the duration of the concert and everyone started and ended at the same time. My daughter goes to a much smaller school where all the grades have one concert together. Each grade sings various songs throughout the concert with one finale. The schedule isn’t “leaked” ahead of time, so no one can plan in advance to sneak out early. The kids sit on risers on the stage when it’s not their turn to sing. No one would dare go up there and grab them. And again, they have more than one song, so it’s a moot point. Both of these setups seemed to work well and I’ve never seen anyone leave early. I didn’t realize people were having this issue in other communities.

  • I am a 31-year-veteran public school choir director. I have seen this more often than I can believe. One of the most poignant: the elementary choir “guest starred” on our middle school concert. The little kids were the 4th group out of 5 Performing choirs. The entire concert lasted 50 minutes. As the elementary kids finished and moved to their seats, many of their parents stood, motioned to their kids, and after catching their eyes, hurried them toward the door. I saw the exodus, and stepped to the mic. I simply thanked the remaining audience, and backs of the retreating losers, for staying through the entire concert and that I was so thrilled that those parents realized their investment in the lives of all the singers-and not just their own. One exiting parent if a 5th grade singer, stopped, flipped me the bird, and stomped out. I, however, didn’t see it. My back was turned to the audience, my eyes and heart focused on the final choir—the best I had at that point…and they were good! Several boys in the center on the choir’s jaws dropped! I had no idea what had happened until after the concert when I asked what had disturbed them. My most overt singer said, “Mrs. Harrison, one of those moms gave you the finger!”

  • When I was a school leader, I always planned a finale that included all of the children with some sort of memento (a flag, wand, etc.) for all of the participants. No one left early because the kids knew they would be called back to the stage at the end.

  • It’s not right to judge other parents as many do have more than one child and at that time of year are extremely busy. I myself am a night worker 11-7 if you have ever worked nights it’s very hard on the mind and body, so to stay at a concert that is that long would be very difficult to watch all the kids especially when you don’t know them. Most parents do the best they can with what they have and really don’t need to be looked down upon at there children’s school !!!