My Son Must Like Words Also

Who would like to guess what the following words have in common?

Bark, Sofa, Barrel, Rattler, Tropical, Banquet, Collude, Nationalism, Cylindrical,
Approximate, Organelle, Adhesion, Olfactory, Serpentine & Inclement

The answer is not an obvious one, so, I will cut you a break and give you the answer….

They are the words, in order, that my son spelled correctly to earn himself 1st place in his school’s Spelling Bee yesterday!

My 11 year old Coco is a 5th grader at his school.  He has participated in the Spelling Bee the last three years.  The first year, as a 3rd grader, he performed 4th best on the written test.  Last year, in 4th grade, he was the #1 speller in the school on the written test.  This year, he once again came in 4th on the written test.

The first two years he participated in the Bee he studied the wrong list.  He studied the list of words that he needed to know if he moved on to the District Spelling Bee. This year, he didn’t make that mistake again!

No, this year, he studied the correct list.  Although, he didn’t spend nearly as much time studying as I anticipated he would.  I would ask him, occasionally, “Coco, do you want me to help you study for the Spelling Bee?”  Sometimes, he would answer yes.  Other times, his answer was no.  Regardless, I was fine with his answer.  At the end of the day, Coco is getting old enough to decide where he places importance in his life.

Late last week Coco started to begin thinking much more about the upcoming Spelling Bee.  I knew as he said to me, “Mom, will you start to help me?” When Coco first started studying he took the list, 10 or so pages, 450 words total, and he flipped to about the 7th page and began studying.  Having me read words to him, him writing the words, as he thought they should be spelled, on a piece of paper, and then my “grading” his work.  On each page there are about 45 words, and out of those 45, he would get between 10 & 12 words incorrect.  He would get frustrated.  So, late last week, when he asked me to help him, I took a different approach.  Let’s start with success….

I started on the very first word, on the very first page.  Which happened to be the word bat.  Coco looked at me funny and said, “Mom, I know how to spell these words.”  To which I replied, “Yes, my Dear Boy, I realize this.  However, let’s start easy and work our way to more difficult.  Let’s see where you actually start to struggle and need to truly study the words.”  And so we began.

In the first 300 some words, he only got about 15 of them wrong.  I wasn’t surprised.  Again, I wasn’t really thinking he needed help with the words in the first part of the packet, however, again, let’s boost the confidence before we get frustrated.

Those 15 words he struggled with, I did my best to remember them.  Some of them were measly, tomorrow, trellis, hodgepodge, infrastructure, philharmonic, cylindrical, (yes, one of the words he had to spell!).  So, guess what, as he was having his success, and spelling words correctly time and again, in I would throw the words that he had spelled incorrectly.  Each time Coco would smile at me and guess what….he would get the word that he had originally spelled incorrectly, right.  Yes!

We spent about two hours this week on his spelling list.  Sometimes in the morning before school.  Sometimes after school.  Even sometimes at the end of the day prior to bed.  Yesterday morning, prior to school, we spent about 30 minutes studying some of the more difficult words.  And then it was time for school.  Off I sent him.  Knowing he had a good chance of being one of the top four finalists that would be sent to represent the school.  Yet also knowing that he hadn’t spent as much time on the really difficult words as perhaps he should have.  Again, it was his choice, and it was time for the chips to fall as they may.

I was able to observe the Spelling Bee.  It was a fun, proud, moment.  You see, my Coco, he looks just like his father.  However, his spelling skill, he got that from me.  To know that, to watch it take effect, makes me look at Coco and think, ‘I am in there.  I’ve done well.  He got something good from me.’

Coco was having fun.  Proof right here in this picture.  Look at that smile….

And then look at something else….Does he look cool, calm, and collected?  He was stressed!  Look closer and notice his red cheeks and ears.  A telltale sign that he was worried about his performance!  By the way….care to take a guess at Coco’s favorite color?!

But, he did have fun.  Which is amazing.  I think back to the scared Kindergartner I dropped off at school just 6 years ago and compare that little boy to the Young Man that just had the confidence, and the ability, to win the Spelling Bee yesterday!!  You’ve come far, Coco.  You’ve come so very far!!

I recorded him, on my phone, as he spelled every single word.  That is how I knew what the words were that he spelled.  I went back last night and watched all of the 25 second or so snippets.  I smiled, and laughed out loud, over my little boy.  Every time a word was said to him, he would glance my way.  And smile at me.  The biggest smiles, however, came as a result of certain words.

You know those words I mentioned earlier.  The ones that Coco got wrong.  The ones that I would throw in, every now and then, to give him practice, repetition, to give him the confidence that he knew the correct way to spell the word even if he had gotten it wrong the first time.  Well, every time one of those words was said, which happened 4 or 5 times yesterday, Coco would look at me and get the biggest smile.  Here is one of those times….

It was almost as if we shared a secret.  When, in reality, what we shared, was a memory, moments in time.  Time spent together, in this life, that can never be taken away.  My little boy, young man, Coco, his last chance to represent his school in the Spelling Bee, (as he reminded me of that morning), he did it.  He accomplished it.  We accomplished it together.  Please don’t misunderstand.  I am not trying to take away his glory, his recognition, nor his hard work.  I do not wish to take credit for any of those things.  They all belong to him.  Yet, you see, he included me in it.  He allowed to help him, to be a part of his success.  A part of this piece of his story in his life.  And I feel blessed.  And thankful.  And so very fortunate.  That I was able to help him, that I was able to be there, myself, watching him.  Sharing in those smiles.  Sharing in the moments that one can never get back.  Seeing first hand his pride, nervousness, excitement, and to see him having fun in the process.

Congratulations, my Coco!  You did it sweet boy….

Originally Written 15Jan16


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