Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Face of Fear

Emma was in the spelling bee yesterday at school. She and another boy won their class tournament, and yesterday both classes of each grade competed to determine who would represent the school at the regional spelling bee.
My poor girl has inherited a few of my flaws character traits. First, she has an overwhelming fear of being on stage (I see those eyebrows going up. Yes, I have been on stage in some capacity for most of my life, but I hate it and I've never been able to stop the debilitating stage fright that comes with it -wobbly voice, cloudy thinking, jell-o knees...).
Second, she has a stringent, perfectionist standard for herself. Flaws in other people? No problem. That's what grace is all about. Flaws in one's self? Ack. Panic. know what? That's all for now. We're gettin' a little too pers'nal.
Anyway, she choked last year during the spelling bee and misspelled an easy peasy word. And she sobbed and sobbed.
I absolutely understood.
When she won the class tournament this year, she did not tell me. I didn't know anything about it. I got an email from her teacher that started out with, "I'm sure Emma already has told you all about it, but..." And I had to tell her that, in fact, I hadn't heard a peep out of her on the subject. And when I asked Emma about it, she screwed her face all up and said she didn't want to do it.
Of course, I knew why she didn't want to do it.
And of course, like any mama should, I made her do it anyway. Not in the dragging her feet and screaming sort of way, but I told her she should try and conquer this thing. And we discussed worst-case scenarios (and the truth behind them): barfing on stage (everybody will just be worried about you), misspelling a word (heck, all but one are going down that way), being the first to misspell a word (well, somebody has to be first, and if it's you, won't you be relieved it's all over?) and other such niceties.
She agreed to participate, trying to bargain with me the whole way - what if she won? Would I make her go to regionals too? And I said we'd cross that bridge when we got there.
So, she did it. She came in second place, which should be a relief, right?
Utter devastation.
And on the surface, it would seem to be disappointment associated with loss.
But she's my girl, and I knew better.
She had misspelled an easy peasy word again. She's embarrassed to misspell something so easy in front of everyone. And mostly, she's mad at herself. She's mad that she couldn't beat the stage fright beast. She's mad because she knows she can out-spell most everyone in the room, including most of the adults. She's mad because she wasn't able to prove it.
And I understood.
We went to a private corner and I dried up her red, wet cheeks. I tried to offer some silver-lining platitudes. But they weren't enough.
Then she brightened up and said, "Well, at least I was the top speller in my class."
You know what? That kid is going to be okay. My silver linings were not good enough, but she was able to find her own.

PS: aren't her new bangs cute?

DAILY BLISS: sigh. my honey is back home. even without all the other wonderful things he brings to the table in this relationship, i'd keep him around just to have somebody else make my coffee in the mornings.


Amy said...

Awww, sweet Emma. She does look terrified. Congrats on doing so well.

Mary said...

Wow. I so understand. Not the part about being the best speller...ahem...I'm not the best speller. However, I've been good at something but couldn't perform before and it's quite frustrating. I also tend to cry after things are over. The fright, the feelings, the anger, whatever it is...I bear up strong and then when all has subsided on the surface I allow the torrent to spew forth.

Way to go Emma! At least we all know who the best speller is.

60ish and Glad said...

Her bangs and stage fright are both adorable.

frabjouspoet said...

Oh, I SO get what Emma went through. (I still remember the first time I was ever on stage...I walked down the steps and straight to the bathroom!)