Spelling Our Way to Self-Worth

Chloe 5th grade spelling bee winner

Last month my 11 year old won her elementary school’s first ever 5th grade spelling bee.  I was stunned the day she came home and confidently stated she wanted to sign up for it.  She had always had an A+ in spelling since kindergarten so it seemed like a natural progression aside from the fact that she never wants to join ANYTHING.

I supported her whole-heartedly and prayed in secret that she would do well….maybe even win.  All the while I had to keep telling myself that she probably wouldn’t and to not get my hopes up.  That night as she was spelling her winning word I felt deaf and dizzy and I could barely keep from passing out.  I was such a proud mother.  I felt like this was something that was going to help her confidence and self-esteem which had been pretty low.

She was fantastically proud of her ability and her win, but remained gracious and humble.  The next day at school one of the girls that did not win accused her of “not being smart enough to win” and that she “must have cheated”.  My child came home deflated.  She hid it for a week or so and then had a classic pre-pubescent meltdown.  She told me the story and my heart broke into tiny little pieces.

I know as an adult that this is just how children are to each other, but as a parent I wanted to call her parents and let them know what a sore loser their child was and maybe they should work on that.  Everyone raises their children differently and the girl that did this to  my daughter comes from another country.  Still…when did people get so ruthless?

In the last 12 years there have only been 2 or 3 non Indian or Asian children who have won the Scripps National Spelling Bee.  I am not sure why this is exactly, but I chalk it up to the fact that they just have stronger work ethics when it comes to education.  I can’t deny that.  But is this great intelligence pushed ahead of compassion?  I will take compassion any day.

Tonight, my daughter embarks on her first ever Regional Spelling Bee where she will face all the winners of the spelling bees in our county from 4th through 8th grades.  Some of these children come from the schools for gifted children.  Some of them are just average kids like my own.  She has not been as enthusiastic about this competition and I know it is because she continues to be tormented by this girl in her class about her abilities to be a winner.

All I can do is hug my kid and remind her that she is a wonderful person with so much to give.  I believe in her.  I’m not sure if she will come out the winner this time, but failure is a good lesson in life.  I hope she has fun.  Secretly, I will be praying that she wins.


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