Thursday, May 22, 2014

Misspelling bee

Wednesday was the last day of school, but I think it’s safe to say my son just phoned it in the last few weeks of third grade.

Usually he’s a great student. Provides little to no fuss when it comes to homework or school projects. All in all, it’s like we’ve been raising the Dalai Lama of Third Graders where life is all peace and love and roses and rainbows.

But then the calendar flipped to May, and his attitude took a definite turn for the worse.

Like North Korea “I’m gonna launch a rocket at you because I want to feel like a big boy who wears big boy kinda pants” worse.


It all began with a spelling bee.

OK, let’s get real for a moment. We’re talking third grade here. In the classroom. With no parents watching. It was like the Spelling Bee for Dummies version of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

There would be no crying. No pressure. No strange rituals. No dancing. No fainting. No “language of origin, please” kinda stuff. Just a few kids standing around spelling a few words.

But this was a class assignment, and when the teacher says practice the words, you’d better bet I’m gonna make my son practice the words. 

Because I know what happens when you DO NOT practice the words.


Some wounds never heal. And for me it was the word “brilliant” in MY third-grade spelling bee.

There I was looking all cute and spiffy and ready to take on the spelling world.

Then I got the world “brilliant.”

And it all went Hindenburg disaster-like real quick.

I forgot the second “i” and down I went. I slunk back to my desk where I immediately noticed my 64 box of Crayola colors sitting there, taunting me. The words “Brilliant Colors” stamped across the top in letters so noticeable that they practically burst into flames.

It was like the universe had flipped me the bird.

I can’t remember to put milk on the friggin’ grocery list, but I remember the feeling of misspelling that #*&@ word 30 years later.

So I was determined my son would not follow in my misspelling bee footsteps.

Did I want him to win?

Not really. I can’t keep him from wearing blue and gray striped shirts with orange and purple shorts, so how in the hell would I turn him into a spelling champ overnight?

So, no, I just wanted him to make an effort, you know. Have a respectable showing and not go out in the first round with a word like “cow.” 

Or “brilliant.”

It should have been simple. He would study the list then I would quiz him. Divide up the words. Do a few each night over the course of the two-week preparation period. Leave a little extra time for the bonus words.


Napoleon had a battle plan at Waterloo.

See how well that turned out?

“Or for the love of God,” I cried and waved the word list in the air as if I were signaling an approaching plane for landing. “Can we just get through these?!”

My son crossed his arms, cocked his head to the side and quickly answered, “Hmmm, no. You said I had to spell 10 words, and I spelled 10 words.”

Crud. Who taught the kid to count?!

“Yes, I did,” I quickly conceded and flipped through the long list of words, “but I had no idea there were so many. At this rate we’ll be finished by Christmas.”

He shrugged, clearly not concerned with my inability to make a proper deal without substantiating all the facts.
I had failed the spelling bee for a second time. 

How did my son do?

I have absolutely no idea.

He told me that he “didn’t win but did OK.” 

And he refused to divulge any additional details.

I’d have better luck getting North Korean leaders to let me see one of their rockets.

But at least there’s a silver lining.

He knows how to spell “brilliant.”

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