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.