Sat. Jan 18th, 2020

Surviving Life with Kids

The Pulse of Parenthood

Surviving The Spelling Bee: The Parenting Years

6 min read


For the first 7 to 18 years of parenting, Surviving Life with kids is mostly comprised of getting the lay of the land. Trying to figure out whats what. Arbitrary rules are made up on the fly. Traditions are formed out of a fear of bad parenting and guilt. And as for a parenting style itself, we’re just trying not to do permanent emotional damage. Most times as parents, we’re just trying to figure out how to survive the day to day. And with that comes some techniques that don’t always play to our strengths.

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As with calculus, when will I ever need to use this skill in life?

Growing up, I always dreaded that we had spelling bee’s in class every Friday. This lasted for years in grade school. I believed then, as I do now, that it was some sort of conspiracy. An underhanded way to taunt and mock us. I suppose it was also to make us better prepared for what was to come, but I had my doubts. The teacher, oddly enough, found this to be a fun exercise. A nice break from our “ordinary day”. Who was she kidding? Since when was spelling ever fun for a kid? Between the spelling bee’s and our peers grading our spelling test, everyone knew that I couldn’t spell. I had to be the punchline to a joke that the entire class was in on. Why keep forcing it? Why insist that I stand in front of the class and attempt the impossible? Cursive writing was invented for this very reason. As with calculus, when will I ever need to use this skill in life?

This may prove to be a mistake but only further prodding will tell.

Fast forward 20 years and I find myself standing in front of the room with four tiny eyes staring at me asking me about dessert. By this point in our evening the topic of dessert is a very touchy subject. Having dealt with two annoying children all day, and not wanting to exacerbate their annoyingness by adding sugar on top of it, I thought it best to consult with the wife on the matter. This may prove to be a mistake but only further prodding will tell.

Have you ever had to hold an entire conversation while spelling almost every word? My fears are instantly transported back from grade school where I now feel anxious and nervous. I don’t want to get this wrong. My daughters look up to me. What if they find out that my spelling skills are less than stellar? I get on my oldest all the time about studying and preparing for her spelling test. What will happen if she sees me stumbling over my letters? What would my excuse be? Will she ever listen to me again? I envision her pushing me down the next time I tell her to go study for her spelling test. With one foot on my chest, advising me to “mind my own business”, I can see how this can go bad.

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And so it begins. I start off slowly, “Should t-h-e-y h-a-v-e i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m and b-r-o-w-n-i-e-s or should t-h-e-y have something less s-w-e-e-t?” I ask. “I got through that without any problems. I just have to remember to slow my thinking down so that I don’t get ahead of myself” I think. My anxiety starts to subside as I feel my confidence growing. As my wife starts to respond my fear starts to grow again. I realize that I now have to take all the letters that she is about to throw at me and somehow put them back together again.

The wife tends to be a fast talker. She’s also a fast walker and a fast reader. By comparison, I’m a snail. When she walks, I have to jog to keep up. When she runs, I just wait for her to get back. She’s excellent at scrabble, and I can barely string 3 letter words together. So you can see where this is going. I’m about to get assaulted with a rapid-firing of letters and I have to string them back together to form words. A spelling bee in reverse. I’ve never practiced for this type of onslaught. Hopefully my brain can keep pace.

Prodding is always a mistake I tell you.

As she looks up at me and starts to respond, I can feel my heart bulging out of my chest with every beat. My palms start to sweat and my anxiety starts to build. As time seemingly slows down, she starts with “I”. “I got this”, I tell myself. Then comes the “D”. I’m now searching my mental word Rolodex to narrow down what could be coming next. “C” she says. As i’m hanging on for the next letter I’m trying to piece together “IDC”. “Maybe she missed a vowel”, I tell myself. “Maybe I missed a vowel”. “Perhaps, while scrolling through my mental Rolodex I spaced out”, I start to think while waiting for the next letter. She looks back down at her phone and continues doing whatever it was that she was doing in the first place. “IDC” I keep repeating to myself as I stand there in front of everyone. “I Dac?” “I Doc?” “I Dec?” “In December?” Realizing that many moments have passed and I’m standing there with a dumbfounded look on my face, I say okay and go off to contemplate elsewhere.

While I’m toiling away thinking of what was just spelled, the girls aren’t sure whether to be excited or not. I can’t tell them that, neither am I. Trying to be discrete in my understanding of what she just spelled, I ask the wife “Are you sure”? Silence is all that blankets the room now as the girls and I wait for a response. “Yeah, I don’t care” she says while never looking up from her phone.

She doesn’t care. “I don’t care”, she says. “IDC”. All of that spelling and in return there is just a “IDC” Prodding is always a mistake I tell you. That and the spelling bee’s.


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