It’s that time of year again…for school holiday concerts. Belted out by our well-meaning though oft- off-key children, they’re the best holiday gift a busy parent can receive. But I daresay that, too often, they go underappreciated.  

My children’s holiday concerts traditionally have been held during the school day, smack in the middle of the holiday rush. There are end-of-the-year work deadlines to meet, last-minute holiday shopping lists to tick off. These and other competing priorities challenge the audience’s ability to sit attentively through an hour or so of holiday songs heard before. From my usual seat in the back of the auditorium, where I can take in the whole scene, the impact is clear.

Many parents rush in at the last minute, some looking as frazzled as if they just brokered a major peace agreement in the Middle East. These often are the same parents who quickly exit the premises as soon as their own little Johnny or Jane is finished singing. Likewise, they tend to be the parents who, during the short period they do stay for the concert, continuously scroll through their texts and emails on their cell phones. It’s not enough that school administrations ask parents to silence their phones during these performances.

Maybe they need to tell parents to put them away. But that would present a problem for those parents who use their phones as cameras or video recorders, a practice that annoys audience members sitting behind them, as it obstructs their view. It also precludes the amateur videographers from enjoying the moment—in real time, anyway. And that is what these concerts are supposed to be about.

Hard to do. But when you take a deep breath and leave your baggage at the door, temporarily disregarding your to-do list and your pressing emails, you are in for a real treat. You see those goofy little grins on the kids’ faces, their cheeks all puffed-out and rosy from all the effort they’re putting into their singing. You glimpse funny little shoves and tugs here and there as the students attempt to stand still and close together, on bleachers no less, for what probably feels to them like a year. And you hear their sweet little voices that will, before you know it, be cracking and getting deep and weird-sounding and spewing out things like “Mom, you are so unfair!”

If I’m sounding nostalgic, it’s probably because this may be the last school holiday concert I attend. My daughter, in middle school, has chosen to eschew all extracurricular activities music-related. My son may make that choice when his time comes. That means I will no longer get an invitation, during this crazy-hectic time of year, to sit for an hour and do absolutely nothing but listen to sweet songs sung by small children.

So this year, if you are lucky enough to have a wee one in a holiday concert, I urge you to sit back and enjoy. It just could be the best present you get this holiday season.

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