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