Later today, my older son Adam is going to be in the school-wide spelling bee.
If you have any concerns about the quality of public education in America, then you should really see the list of spelling bee words they think it’s reasonable for a 4th grader to know.
Actually, I can totally see why a child of mine would need to know the word enchilada.
Last night we were practicing, and I called out the word wanton.
"Wanton," he said, and then he paused. "Could you use it in a sentence, please?"
(Um, since it means "sexually lawless or unrestrained; loose; lascivious; lewd", I’d rather not, if it’s all the same.)
Anyway, my boy is a little anxious, but he’s well-studied, and he’ll do fine. I, on the other hand, am a nervous wreck, because I’m carrying with me some spelling bee baggage from junior high.
I was only in a spelling bee once, in the seventh grade. After many rounds, it was down to my best friend (the smartest kid in our grade), and me. We kept going. Round after round. It was a dramatic face-off of epic, pimply-faced proportions.
Finally, when it had gone on so long that the cool kids had started sighing and rolling their eyes, they gave us one last word. It was my turn.
I went blank.
The clock on the cafeteria wall ticked madly. A boy in the front row snickered. The earth trembled.
And I opened my mouth.
"Glycerin. G-l-i-c-e-r-i-n. Glycerin."
"I’m sorry, that is incorrect," said the judge, and my moment of spelling bee glory was shattered in an instant.
(The fact that I just used the words "spelling bee" and "glory" in the same sentence should tell you something about my degree of coolness in the seventh grade.)
Since that moment, you can bet I’ve never once forgotten how to spell the word glycerin. Although ironically, except for that one moment, I have never needed to spell the word glycerin.
Well, until this post today, of course. The same day my boy stars in his first spelling bee. I guess you could say my universe has closure.
Sorry, you were probably expecting a more dramatic story than that. It’s as good as I’ve got on a nervous day like this. It takes a lot of mental energy to project all your adolescent insecurities on your kid.
Wish us luck.