Friday, November 19, 2010

The Spelling Bee

My son came home yesterday with a notice that he has been “selected” to participate in the 3rd grade’s Spelling Bee in two weeks. I have no idea whether this is a big deal or not (to be selected, I mean). But I did share this information with my Mom, who in turn emailed everyone she knows about it.

We are all excited for him and hope he does well. He is pretty smart and a pretty decent speller, so we expect he will do well. The kid, however, could really care less. Whether or not he gets an extra brownie before bed and “tickle time” with me are both items weighing much heavier on his mind than spelling words in front of an audience.

This makes me wonder. Does the pressure to perform we place on our children damage their psyche? It is not a new dilemma, but it is new to me. I am wanting, inside, to really encourage him to go for it - to be the best. To spell with great finesse and be the big star. To win-win-win! But since I am not feeling the excitement from him, I wonder. How far should I go? If he gets up there and loses, I want him to be glad he played anyway. I suppose parents of children who participate in sports have similar dilemmas.

I think the best thing I can do for him is to give him gentle encouragement, and to above all else press upon him that participation is the gift. I need to make sure to remind him that he is my wonderful, shining boy always, no matter what, and if a talent in spelling is one of the ways he can share his gifts with the world, we will celebrate. If not, we will keep having fun together and move on to the next thing.

There must be something in us, that as parents we somehow expect our children to magically overcome all of the hurdles we faced growing up and to be the big star we never were. I do want him to be a big star. But to the only person who really matters, who needs to see his star shine: himself. As far as what the world thinks, I hope, like the spelling bee, he could care less.

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