Spelling Bees and Advice

I periodically glance back at my daughter’s reflection in the rearview mirror.

She has tears slipping down her cheeks. She’s trying to talk but I can tell that it is an effort to just get the words out.

“I don’t want to do the spelling bee because … what if I spell a word wrong?” she finally manages to say, her voice cracking at each word.

“Oh,” is all I can manage for a second. “Oh, honey.”

My first thought is “That’s just silly.” But I don’t say that out loud.

Instead I say …

“Eventually everyone spells something wrong.”

“What’s most important is that you try.”

“I don’t care if you win. That’s not what this is about, it’s about learning to spell.”

“I will love you even if you spell every word wrong for the rest of your life.”

Then, because that advice doesn’t seem to be stopping the tears, I do what I’ve learned to do with my kids, distract with humor.

“Libby (our Lab) doesn’t care if you spell anything right ever.”

At this she laughs and her sister laughs.

Fear of the spelling bee is forgotten.

I mull her reaction to the spelling bee over in my mind the rest of the drive home. I talk to my husband about it. I talk to my mom, a retired 2nd grade teacher. I talk to my sister.

I think about how much I identify with my daughter’s fears. I think about all the things I haven’t done in life because of fear of the outcome. I think about the advice I gave her that I don’t quite follow 100 percent of the time. 

I wish for a magic wand to take all her fears away.

A few weeks pass and my daughter comes home thrilled, “I got second place in my class!”

She describes in detail how the spelling bee went down: how her stomach felt weird, how her legs and hands were shaking, how everyone spelled words wrong and had to sit down, and how Ethan won by spelling the word “tongs” correctly.

“That wasn’t so bad was it?” I ask.

I think of myself and I think of you.

I wish for both of us what I wish for my daughter: that fear not stop us in our tracks.

I want us to embrace fluttery tummies and wobbly legs and to step up to the spelling bees that life sends us.


What has fear held you back from lately? What advice have you given someone that you love, that you need to take to heart, too? Comment below and share with someone you know who needs a little push.


  1. Oh, what a timely post. Fear held me back last week from moving forward. I was stuck in quicksand and couldn’t move. I was drowning and nothing I reached for was strong enough to pull me up. Then Sunday arrived. A new week. A new beginning.

    I have a meet-up group for women that are ready to take that first step out of their comfort zone. One of them posted Sunday morning (1/15) that she was anxious about attending an event on the calendar and meeting new people. I told her that in order to live the life we truly want, we must take the first step.

    I thought about her and the advice I gave as I prepared to attend a potluck that had 35 attendees (all strangers). I will think of her as I reach out to another round of potential joint venture partners. I will think about her when I give a presentation to doctors about my health coaching services. When I see her on Friday at our “Friendship Circle” event, I will be closer to the life I truly want than I was on Sunday.

    ” In order to life we truly want, we must walk towards it. Take that first step. It will be okay.”

    • christie on at

      Brenda – I see you taking step, after step, after step! I can only imagine where you are going to be in just a few months, not to mention this time next year! Thank you so much for stopping by to comment.

  2. What a precious story. And so timely for me. I wrote a post on my blog today about fear and how it was holding me back from being my authentic and most powerful self. I have found fear has held me back from public speaking and more importantly from taking a bolder stand in the world about what I believe.

    • christie on at

      Laurie – We are completely on the same wavelength with our blog posts this week. Time and time again I find myself making excuses about something I didn’t do and if I peel away the layers of excuses, at the bottom is FEAR. So seeing that so clearly impacting my daughters life was so revealing!

  3. Irene Lyon on at

    Very good share Christie.

    You know I’m all about feelings those tummy butterflies, and especially teaching our kids that it is so OK to have tears and be scared!

    Such important learning for our young ones.

    All those boys that were told “boys don’t cry” and “suck it up”, end up being older one day and then struggle to have emotional connection with their partners.

    I think it is also great how when kids are left to figure it out a little bit and have support that isn’t forced or “right or wrong” from us as caregivers, they end up teaching themselves so much.

    Irene xx

    • christie on at

      Irene, Thanks for stopping by to comment. I am really amazed how resilient kids are. How mine can usually handle most situations with, like you said, a little support. So going with that theme … I think we adults forget how resilient we are and how we can re-ground and get out of our head and be fine in stressful situations, too. That’s why your work is so important.

  4. Love this and can so relate! My 3rd grade son went through the tears of spelling bee fear a month or so ago. It is hard, and I passed along smilar advice…it’s so true that fear can be so damn paralyzing. Thanks for reminding me to look at fear even from the eyes of a child, and that we need to learn to push those fear boundaries away…even if it is just to spell a word!

    xo, Tina

    • christie on at

      Thank you for commenting Tina. So many moms are sharing similar experiences with their children. Glad that the post resonated with you.

  5. Lazarus on at

    Oh spelling bee’s! What they could teach us!!! lol!
    That nerve wracking feeling of putting yourself out there. I know it well. Feel it when I put a new painting out there for everyone to see. I’m gonna embrace my fluttering tummy just like you say!!! Really I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I’m not nervous about it…I haven’t pushed myself enough to learn from it.
    Thanks for this great post! And congrats to your daughter on her 2nd place win!!!! 😀

    • christie on at

      Laz – Thanks for commenting. Your artwork shows just how much you embrace fear and do your work anyway. Thank you for that example.

  6. Shay on at

    Great post Christie! Spelling bees are great practice for grown-up life. 🙂

    • christie on at

      Thanks for stopping by Shay! I don’t remember that many spelling bees from grade school so I must have passed through without fear. College, that’s another story.

  7. Love how Fear is showing up in so many peoples post. Perfect with entering 2012. Fear use to take me over in so many ways in my past, but what has kept me going is my WHY. I keep remembering the agreements I have made with myself and the why behind them and it keeps me honest and true. It keeps me moving forward and upward because that is what I want to do. I want my life to be full of sparkly magic with lots of fun and joy. I don’t want the darkness that fear brings, but I embrace it if it shows up because it’s a part of who I am. I simply embrace it and let it know that I love that it showed up and I reflect, then I make the intention of what I do want so I move towards the magic.

    I really love the story you shared. Gosh that totally touches my heart. The innocence of a child yet how profound an impact they can make. Beauty!

    With lots of sparkle magic,
    Alara Castell,
    Queen of Play + Fun Loving Business Activator

    • christie on at

      Alara – I love that you mentioned intention and WHY. I’ve been working on clarifying the bigger why’s behind my work and what I’m finding is keeping me moving forward, too.

  8. Perfect timing! My daughter made it to the 3rd alternate for her school (11th out of 800 kids) – this was her second year at a bee. My son’s first one was this year – he finished 7th out of two grades. Both of them were nervous. Both of them were proud of what they accomplished – even when it meant that they didn’t finish first. We gave them pep talks sure, but in the end they stood up on the stage and did the work.

    This year is a pivotal year for my business – it’s about growth and stretching and doing new things. Now I have the best thing to think about when I overthink the big steps – the spelling bee!

    Jennifer Peek
    Find Your New Groove
    The Freedom to Build Your Business Your Way

    • christie on at

      It’s pretty amazing watching my kids stand up and do the work. Like you said, pep talks aside, they are the ones who have to follow through and get up there and spell the words. So much of a metaphor for our own businesses.

  9. I love this post. Not only because I used to love to spell when I was a kid, but also I remember your daughter’s anxiety. Children are great teacher’s and it is an important reminder to not let fear stop us in our tracks.

    on a side note: There is a song by travis …in the lyrics it says, we are born knowing everything and then they teach it all away. Kudos to the children who know everything…


    • christie on at

      Thank you Tracy for that quote, so, so true.

  10. Loved your post, Christie. This lesson of the Spelling Bee will never get old. I still get fluttery tummies myself and get super encouraged when I read stories like these. What a huge mountain this spelling bee must’ve been for her…and she decided to climb it. Bravo.

    • christie on at

      Thanks Mic! Yes, she’s a brave girl with lots of fluttery tummies still to experience and mountains to climb. What amazes me is how fast she recovers and how nonchalant about the stress and fear once the obstacle is passed. A good lesson there, too!