It’s tough to comfort a kid who’s being exceptionally hard on herself, especially when I know she gets that particular trait from me. Trust me friends, I will beat myself up more than any of you combined—promise! I’m just that way. I have to get things right. I had to get all A’s on my papers in school, and papers with red marks simply were not acceptable. Even now, I have to have things just right in a LOT of areas. (Now that I think of it, this might be borderline OCD behavior, but it explains a lot about me and my kids.)
This also explains Marissa’s determination when she brought home the list of words for the school spelling bee. And let me tell you, we made some serious progress on that list. We kicked ass and took names while practicing those words. She had them down pat. She KNEW them. She could probably have spelled them backwards in her sleep while doing a handstand. That’s how well she knew those words.
So I sent her off to school with well wishes for the bee. (There were no spectators at this one since it was the last round that was to occur just at their school.) If she made it past this round, she would go on to the county bee! And then become a world champion speller. And then someday receive the Nobel Prize for spelling…because that should totally exist, as should the Nobel Prize for grammar. But I digress.
I anxiously awaited Marissa’s return from school. I couldn’t wait to hear all about how she had out-spelled every other kid in our entire suburban jungle. She would be a star!
And she came home in tears. Crap.
As it turns out, she was eliminated on the very first round with what I consider to be one of the most ridiculous words in the English language. I mean, really, why even have it? It was the word ‘conceive.’ Who wants to have to recite the ‘i before e unless after c’ rule every time they have to spell a word? Ridiculous. If it can’t follow the normal rules like every other word, then it should just be eliminated. Well, those are the arguments I used with Marissa anyway when I was trying to make her feel better.
And then I had to tell her about the most traumatic—and possibly life-altering—spelling bee moment I had when I was just about her age. It happened with another ridiculous word. Stupid, really. And I was so confident. When the announcer or judge or whatever you call that person who gives you the ridiculous words said my word aloud, I nearly jumped up and down. What an easy word! I was going to kick some butt!
And I spelled it incorrectly. The word was ‘beechnut.’ And yep, you guessed it, I spelled it ‘b-e-a-c-h.’ Not cool. I went from Queen of the Spelling Realm to Illiterate Troll in my own eyes in a split second. But you know what? (And this is what I told Marissa, too.) I never, ever misspelled ‘beechnut’ again. True, I don’t have a whole lot of uses for that word in general, but if I did, I would spell the shit out of it.
And Marissa will probably never misspell ‘conceive’ again either. For the record, I think ‘c-o-n-s-e-e-v-e’ is a WAY better way to spell it anyway, but they (being the Webster’s peeps) don’t ask us, so we have to go with what they deem most appropriate.
And these experiences, sweet girl of mine, are what turn us into the word nerds we are destined to become. Spell on, Marissa!