Here's a little background. Last year AJ competed for the first time, and took third place. No small feat. Unfortunately, when he spelled a word wrong and got knocked out of the competition, he just sat on stage and bawled. Understandable? Yes. Embarrassing? Yep. It was NOT easy to sit in the audience and watch him be so upset (and yes, hear his sobs) while they finished the competition. Poor kiddo.
Last night and this morning his Dad and I spoke AT LENGTH about how proud we were of him no matter what. I stuffed his pants pockets with tissues....just in case (I know my boy). But he didn't need 'em this morning. I really wish you could have all seen his face the minute he spelled the last word correctly and realized he'd won. It was PRICELESS. Such joy. I could also hear his fellow classmates in the audience cheering for him and congratulating him. It almost made ME cry!
I had a really tough time sleeping last night. I tossed and turned wondering how AJ would do. I didn't really care if he won (OK, maybe just a little!), I just didn't want him to be devastated if he didn't do well. I didn't want him to be disappointed in himself. This parenting-thing is so stinkin' hard. Your first instinct is to try to shield your child from all sorts of disappointments. What if their team loses, what if he fails at something, what if he gets hurt, what if...what if. I sat for about 2 hours watching him on stage. I could tell he was uber-nervous. He kept taking deep breaths and holding his hand over his heart (it must have been racing - maybe he thought he was having a heart attack, I know I sure felt like it!). Each time he walked up to the mike he was very deliberate. He spelled each word very slowly. Dragging out the anticipation. I held my breath so much it's a wonder I didn't pass out!
When I got home (and made more than a few gloating phone calls about what a genius my son was - I'm not gonna lie!), it hit me. I think today's win was made all the more sweet BECAUSE OF his big disappointment last year. If he hadn't lost last time, maybe he wouldn't have realized THIS time how important it is to work hard, try your best, and just go for it. He could have just as easily decided that he didn't want to compete this year. Last year didn't turn out so well, so why put yourself out there again and risk embarrassment one more time.
That's when I got REALLY proud of AJ. Not because he won the spelling bee, but because he tried again after he lost last year. In today's world where everybody gets a trophy regardless of whether they win or lose, it's really tempting to shy away from what your kids don't do so well. To shield 'em from things that are really hard and that they might fail at. I have to keep reminding myself that as a kid, I didn't win at everything. Yet I survived. And maybe worked a little harder next time. And tried again. And again. And I'm a stronger person because of it. And so are our kids. They might be knocked out temporarily, but they'll come back stronger. Like my AJ! (Oh, how I love him!) Next stop=District Spelling Bee!