I'm not entirely sure but I have a strong suspicion that I was way more tense than my son. It was the morning of the 2016 Third Grade Spelling Bee at his school and we have both been reviewing for the past week. Last night, his last chance at really preparing for this event, it came to a point where I can see he had mentally given up. He was too exhausted and I had to back off. He really didn't need any more pressure. A 9-year old can only take so many "I before E except after C's", or his mother interrupting him with "Wrong. Repeat!"
The event was held at the school library and the finalists' parents were invited, with two rows of chairs designated for us. I made sure to occupy the back row, a corner spot where Noah won't spot me so easily. I was afraid of making faces unconsciously, or him seeing all my facial muscles contract with trepidation. To be honest, I wasn't sure if it was in my son's best interest that I show up. I asked him repeatedly if he wanted me there and he said yes, he was sure. And so I went, and so did my husband.
The thing about these events is that it's an exercise for parents to tame our expectations. It's when we fully understand the meaning of 'Expecting the worst, yet hoping for the best'. You want to cheer your child on without putting too much pressure. You tell them you love them no matter what, but you also know deep down that winning makes a difference. You don't want your child to be overly competitive, but you don't want them to be a slacker either and prefer that they grow up with some fight in them. It's a delicate balancing act that, if you truly think about it, simply teaches us Love and Acceptance. We can only exert so much influence and in the end, our children will still experience things beyond our control and end up into people who won't fit our molds with the precision we desire. Ultimately, the challenge is to still receive them with open arms, win or lose. We are constantly taught that the end goal is not to have perfect children, but good-to-the-core, happy children. That's it.
The Spelling Bee lasted for close to an hour, and for those who made it until the end, they ended up spelling words for approximately 50 minutes. There were a total of 18 finalists from the different classes, until finally it was down to three. After a few back and forth spelling between him and another finalist, Noah emerged as the champion!
I have never held my breath for so long that I think it gave me a headache. But when I could finally exhale, the pride and gratitude took over. I was ecstatic that all the hard work Noah put in paid off! But him getting the trophy is really only half the victory. In my view, this image below is what makes him even more of a winner. It was the best part of my day...
That's my son being hugged by one of his best buddies, C, who was also a finalist. Yes, I am proud of Noah for working so hard and bringing to the table his best self. But more importantly, I am happy for him for having such great friends who are supportive and humble. C was there cheering for my son and feeling so proud as well for his friend's success! What an amazing kid, isn't he?
My son is blessed. He may be quite reserved and tends to keep his feelings in, instead of openly expressing them. But I have no doubt that deep down he feels as exhilarated and deeply grateful as I do for being able to share his joys with his wonderful and loving friends.
I hope he knows that success can only feel good if you really worked hard for it, and most importantly, if you have openhearted friends and loved ones who genuinely and unselfishly share in your joy.
I thank God for helping my son today. And I will also forever thank God for giving my son the sweet, unparalleled taste of knowing what good friendship looks and feels like. That's an unfading trophy worth keeping in his heart.