We are all gifted with a unique set of characteristics that help us in life. Sometimes I forget that. Today I was reminded at an elementary spelling bee, of all places.
My son had been worried about the spelling bee and almost decided against participating. We talked about his fears, which were completely unfounded and unrealistic. Ultimately, I left the final decision up to him. After a day of thought, he decided he would participate. I was happy he decided to engage in the challenge and face the fear of the unknown, of failure. The easier option would have been to avoid uncomfortable feelings.
When we arrived for the bee the contestants were up on the stage practicing. The atmosphere was light, carefree, fun. Parents and children filed in until the room was full. The first official round started off easy, so easy that no one was eliminated. As the rounds progressed the kids began to misspell words. Their faces embarrassed, sad, some even tearful. My own eyes stung as I held back tears sensing their disappointment and defeat.
Then it was Dominic’s turn again, his word was moody. “M-O-O-D-I-E”. Silence, no bell to tell him he had spelled the word correctly. He knew he was out. A quiet conference with the other contestants around him and he knew how he had misspelled the word. Contemplation flashed across his face for a moment then a smile. That was a beautiful sight. At the end of the round, he and another child were clapped off the stage. He found his way to sit with us and watched eagerly to see which of his friends would win the bee.
Several rounds later, Aiden won the bee. The audience left just as quickly as they had arrived, leaving only the contestants and parents. As I looked around the room I saw most of the children seeking comfort in the arms of their parents, tear stained cheeks, and red eyes.
Then there was Dominic, smiling, bouncy, happy. I hugged him tight and told him I was proud of him. Although, I am not sure proud is the appropriate word, more reassured. Knowing that he could take a calculated risk, put himself out there, fail, and shake it off meant, to me, that he would be able to do this in other situations in his life. It meant he was resilient, optimistic, and hopeful. Those are characteristics that will help him immensely in life.
As we left the school many of the students, parents and teachers told Dominic he had done a good job. He smiled and thanked each one of them. He too told his fellow competitors the same.
Watching my son grow into a young man has been equally beautiful and terrifying. He surprises me. His personality is so much different from my own. I would have been one of the girls crying on her mother’s shoulder, embarrassed, and cursing myself for getting on the stage to begin with. But not Dominic. I look at him with the same wonder and awe now that he is ten-years-old as I did when he was born. Growing a person within my womb was pure magic, but the gift of watching him become his own person is my most cherished treasure.
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