My 9-year old came home yesterday with the Spelling Bee list. The Good Old Fashioned Spelling Bee list. Eleven pages of words – over 400 of them in total. Oh, how I wanted to tell him not to do it, but he seemed so intent on it, I had to keep my mouth shut. While I love these competitions and think that they can do a kid a world of good, especially when they win, they are pressure cookers and I just don’t think they are necessary. Now, that said – and here’s the real reason that I hesitate to jump up and down with excitement for him – I won the Spelling Bee (the very same one) 26 years ago. And he knows it. He is such a hard worker, such a little nerd, just like his mama, and I don’t want him to feel like he has to follow in my footsteps. It kills me to think that I might have set a bar for him, rather than allow him to create his own bar. When kids are driven to meet standards set by their parents, it’s so limiting. And I just don’t want that. The worst part is that I think this is one of those times when I don’t have a say. I think I have to let him do this and hold my breath. On the one hand, I almost don’t want him to win… but on the other – if he is going to do it, I want him to win it. I don’t ever want him to feel like he’s “not good enough”.
I cringe at the thought of people saying “following in your mother’s footsteps, I see” or “son, you are a true Cullen.” My son doesn’t need me or any kind of comparison to me to be amazing – he is smart, gorgeous, talented, athletic, funny, and yes, a total bookworm (he is, after all, my son). I want him to figure out on his own what goals he will set for himself, what he will fight for, and I want him to earn his own victories. And it’s not that he hasn’t done so already. He has overcome more challenges than I ever did at his age… from being the shyest boy in his class to one of three class “citizens” in third grade; from convincing himself he’d never be an athlete to coming in first place at two Kung Fu competitions, and being part of the winning team of last year’s baseball season. He has come so far… he doesn’t need to add the Spelling Bee to his list of victories. But, if this is to be one of them, then let this be not a shadow of what was mine many years ago, but rather, his very own accomplishment. He is his own incredible person and deserves to always be seen for what he has done – all on his own.