Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Difficult Lessons


Today was the first grade spelling bee. Sloane earned the right to participate, and has been studying for nearly 3 weeks. All this studying was her idea. We have offered support and encouragement, but set no expectations. I've been amazed by her commitment and proud of her tenacity. There were 500 words on the combined first and second grade list. By this morning she knew more than 440 of them. Amazing, right?

Before I continue with Sloane's story, let me tell you about my own spelling bee experience. I was in fifth grade, not first. As we were about to begin a boy I liked looked at me, sneered, laughed, and said, "I bet you'll be the first one out." I was. Of course I was. The word I misspelled was vacuum. I spelled it "v-a-c-c-u-u-m." I was never in a spelling bee again.

Like all parents, I want to raise my own child to be a harder-working, kinder, all-around-better-person version of her Dad and me. I want her to learn from my mistakes. But, sometimes I have no idea how to pass along the lessons she needs. Especially those lessons I know she needs to learn because I am still struggling with them myself.

What does this have to do with Sloane's spelling bee, you ask? Here it is.

There were 14 contestants and only one winner. If Sloane was the winner, I wanted her to be gracious and quietly pleased. Let me say right here, she seemed pretty confident in her victorious outcome. She knew over 440 words, remember. If Sloane did not win, I wanted to her suffer the disappointment with her spirit intact. More. I wanted her to never, never, never give up. Not let one loss knock her down and out. I want to raise a tenacious fighter who chooses a goal and works toward it. No matter how long it takes. I want to raise a doer who dreams. Not just a dreamer.
She lost.

The word was "doesn't". She forgot the apostrophe. Sloane was not one of the top three spellers who received medals. She was in fourth place.

When she got out, she stayed composed, joined me in the audience, sat on my lap, and cried soft, quiet, disappointed tears. She also watched the rest of the spelling bee carefully. She clapped encouragement for each student as they got out. She clapped even harder for the winner. Oh, yes, she was gracious.

After school Sloane proudly showed her Daddy the ribbon she earned for participating. This was our exact conversation on the drive home after a stop for ice cream.
Me: "So? What are you thinking about the second grade spelling bee?"

Sloane: "I think I'm gonna be the last one standing. I have a year to get ready. Can we start tomorrow?"
That, my friends, is the gospel truth.

You know what I think? Whether or not Sloane ever wins a spelling bee, in life, she'll always be the last one standing.

And she'll do it with grace.

25 comments:

Christina said...

Congratulations to you Sloane! You are a winner of the truest and most beautiful kind. That must have meant so much for the other participants to have you cheer them on as they continued on with the bee.

Good luck with studying, and as my son always says (each time he misses a basket) during a b-ball game. "Even Michael Jordan was cut from his team."

Here's to the beauty and determination that grace can bring.
Have fun Sloane!
xxoo

JUST ME said...

Relyn,

Give Sloane a big hug from me. What a trooper she is. Admirable as well!

Angelica

T.Allen-Mercado said...

I'm honestly teary-eyed. It took me until 6th grade to finally beat spelling bee phenom, Carol Hom and take that 1st place trophy home. I don't know if I could have truly appreciated the hard work entailed had I not graciously sat opposite the stage for so many years before. Congratulations Sloane, you have a new fan cheering you on for next year's bee.

veronica said...

that's such a great story about such a great young lady! so many people can learn from sloane's example of working hard and competing with dignity and respect. i was in the 4th grade spelling bee and went out in the 3rd round by spelling tapestry as "t-a-p-a-s-t-r-y".

veronica said...

p.s. since when did spelling bees include contractions??

joanne said...

what a beautiful story and another amazing lesson to learn from her....

and an amazing coincidence...

when i was in sixth grade ...i was in a spelling bee...the word i had to spell to win the bee was vacuum... i spelled it correctly...but the teacher holding the bee said i spelled it incorrectly, telling me and the audience it is spelled vaccuum...a whole audience of parents looked confused but no one said anything...i knew i had spelled it correctly ... i went home disappointed having lost the bee.

that evening i received a phone call from the teacher... he realized his mistake and apologized... he asked me to go to the principal's office the next day to collect my winner's trophy ...

i still have that trophy... it reminds me that victories come not from recognition by others ... but rather are to be found within myself...

to me, Sloane was the winner .. much more important than winning the bee ... she experienced a victory inside of herself... with the realization that when an outcome doesn't go the way we hope it will there is always another tomorrow full of its own new opportunities ...

dutchbaby said...

Fourth place on the first try? I think that's wonderful. If you start at the top, it's very hard to repeat and this way there is still room for improvement. I am so impressed with your Sloane, she has such a solid core. Congratulations to Sloane and to you and Jeffrey.

Jeanne said...

what a great daughter and Mother
team you are..
Love you
More than words letters mingle souls.
Love you

ELK said...

i am so proud of sloane for being up there...mom you are amazing!!

beth said...

AMAZING...you have raised a doer and sometimes in life that is the best thing we can ever do !!

congrats to you both !!

Patti said...

Hi! Yea Sloane!!! Good for her and good for her to set a goal for next year!!! With that kind of foresight, she will go far! It is so hard to watch our kids learn life lessons, but they have to in their own way or it won't be their lessons to learn...and I don't think it EVER gets easier! Hugs to Sloane and her proud parents!

Patti

tangobaby said...

Christina is right... Sloane is a winner no matter what. And her attitude is wonderful and now she knows what to look forward to next year.

She reminds me of one of my favorite films, Spellbound (and I'm sure you've seen it), and you just wanted all of the children there to win. You couldn't help rooting for all of them. She has lots of years to go and spell. Good for her.

spread your wings said...

way to go Sloane - great job!!
and Relyn, i know you are proud of your daughter's wonderful attitude and willingness to get up again and try even harder. She's going to go far.

jfrancis said...

For some reason
I cannot explain
"Come sit by my fire"
is the lesson of Sloan.

smith kaich jones said...

Last night was Science Fair night. My 12-yr. old niece did not win. I think she was just perfectly fine with that - I hope so. Back when she was a first grader, she was in a regional spelling bee & to everyone's surprise, won 1st place. But here's the deal - as people began to be eliminated, she grew uneasy. When the last person she actually knew was gone, she began to cry and wanted to also leave. (This is how I know we're related.) Her mom was up in an instant, ready to rush to her, to walk her away, but the adults in charge asked for a moment - just a moment, they said. Lo & behold, they talked my niece into taking her place back on the stage &, like I said, she went on to win first place. But you know, I was as proud - probably more - that she faced that fear of staying up there, that she stared it down & won.

" . . . I want to raise a tenacious fighter who chooses a goal and works toward it. No matter how long it takes. I want to raise a doer who dreams. Not just a dreamer."

I totally understand. Congratulations to Sloane. For more than just the spelling.

:) Debi

Lennye said...

Your words are how I've wanted to raise my boys. Humility and graciousness are marvelous qualities. Give Sloane a hug and tell her great job from Georgia!

Lubna said...

Congrats Sloane. You are a winner! A truly inspiring post, Relyn. Have you ever thought of writing a book - these days I am hooked to www.authonomy.com
Check it out.

chloe said...

wow, what an amazing story! your daughter sounds truly wonderful! and i'm so glad you're encouraging her in all the right ways.
xx
chloe

Maithri said...

How deeply moving, How deeply deeply moving...

Being gracious... Is there a greater lesson?... a greater victory than this... To find grace in the tired moments, the broken moments... the moments when life hurts the tender places in your heart and leaves you crying soft tears into your pillow....

Grace is the most powerful lesson... More important than winning the spelling bee, More important than winning anything...

For in grace...there lives a true and tender love....

And this love says:

'I am always worthy. And so are you.'

'I know I can do all things... in time..'

'I am already Beautiful. I am already enough.'

Thank you gracious friend for teaching the things which truly matter,

Soft enfolding love and the gifts of grace, Maithri

linda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
linda said...

I imagine Sloane is the way she is, because she has wonderful parents to teach her, and back her up. Great job Sloane! Great job Mom and Dad! You've got a winner!

Ragamuffin Gal said...

That was so hard to witness for me ~ I wanted her to win so badly. Was that wrong to be silently rooting for a first grader who was not in my class? I hung holding my breath every time she stood up to spell. My heart did a nose dive when she left out the one little (yet I knew it mattered) thing. That is why after it was over and everyone was applauding the winners, I left my class, went back and planted a kiss on top of her head. When I raised up I caught the eye of some of my parents (I know it probably caused some wonder???) They cannot know what Sloane means to me.

She is one of the most gracious gals I've ever met and I am proud of her and will ALWAYS be rooting for her!!! Beautiful post momma 1st class!

paris parfait said...

She is going places! Persistence is key. How proud you must be!

Jaime said...

Sloane is such a lovely young lady...what a beautiful soul she has. A true winner in every sense of the word, and glowing with grace.
Just makes you never want to give up on any challenge. Thank you so much for the inspiration Sloane.

xo

robin bird said...

this story just made me do that laugh/cry thing that feels sooo good! sloane you are an inspiration to all of us grown up girls for courage!

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