The Sting Of The Spelling Bee

Can you spell A-N-X-I-E-T-Y?

This evening Miss M competed in the Year Four Spelling Bee at school. She has been studying a word list that, quite frankly, would make most adults tremble and ask for Mummy. Miss M worked her little butt off and I am a very proud mama bear. I am also devastated for my little girl, who worked so hard, can spell ridiculous words like paroxysm, vehemence, exhilarate and harangue and still got knocked out tonight in the semi-final round. Boy, oh boy, did she cry.

After lots of cuddles and a big chat, she is fine. I explained that it’s okay to feel disappointed, as long as she also makes space next to ‘disappointed’ for ‘proud’ and ‘brave. I think she gets it. I hope so. It’s so important for her to learn to fail and then to get up, brush off and try again.

I have decided to share with you some of the words from her Spelling Bee list. The definitions may or may not be accurate.

Anxiety – The feeling a parent experiences as she watches her little girl standing in front of a crowd, waiting to hear what insanely enormous and totally intimidating word she is going to have to spell.

Apocalypse – The end of the world. What Little Miss envisioned would happen if she didn’t get through to the next round.

Artificial – The “brave” smile on my face as I watched the Spelling Bee. Inside I was a train-wreck.

Artilliary – A synonym for the insanely difficult words aimed at these little kids.

Accurate – Something these nine year olds have to be, because no mistakes are tolerated in the hardass Spelling Bee Universe.

Aghast – The first word Miss M had to spell, which she got correct. Yeah!

Bizarre – The word that shattered Miss M’s world, crumpled her face, triggered tears and broke my heart. She spelled bazaar. :(

Catastrophe – Something being knocked out of a Spelling Bee is not. Try explaining that to Miss M.

Dessert – A substance which has curative powers over broken spirits of little people. To be taken in double doses, if necessary. It works.

Delicious – The joyous reaction of a little boy who got through and phoned a family member overseas – American Idol style – to announce that he was going to Hollywood! Okay, not Hollywood, but you get it…

Disappointed – A word that describes about one percent of what Little Miss felt as she was knocked out of the Spelling Bee.

Effluent – What could be found under my seat during the Spelling Bee.

Excruciating – The experience of watching your child compete in a Spelling Bee. Likely to cause diarrhoea. See “effluent” above.

Ferocious – The competition. Sheesh – these Year Fours can spell. Hats off to an amazing group of kids.

Ghastly – See “effluent” above.

Humorous – Something Spelling Bees are not.

Incense – Not to be confused with “incensed” – as in “I am incensed by the cruel inclusion of the word ‘bizarre’ in the spelling bee!”

Jeopardy – Used in a sentence: Because I am lame and can’t cope with a this Spelling Bee roller-coaster, I was in dire jeopardy of having a heart attack.

Lacerate – What Miss M’s tears did to my heart.

Machete – A large cutting implement one might like to use to shred the Spelling Bee word list into a gazillion pieces tomorrow morning.

Nonchalant – An attitude I am clearly incapable of pulling off.

Paroxysm – A sudden violent fit (like the one I had when I saw the word ‘paroxysm’ on the list. I mean, really. And Miss M can spell it. Like a champ. Booyah.)

Perennial – You guessed it. It’s coming around again next year.

Psychiatry – Something I am clearly in need of.

Raspberry – A fruit with a hidden “P” inside it.

Serene – I am unfamiliar with this word. Please explain.

Sergeant – A word with “E”s and “A”s in ridiculous places.

Spectator – Someone who watches Spelling Bees while producing a puddle of effluent as a result of diarrhoea.

Squirt – The action of Miss M’s tears as they came out of her eyes.

Supercilious – The feeling I would imagine one experiences when winning a Spelling Bee.

Terrifying – Spelling Bees

Unanimous – Used in a sentence: It was unanimous that the Spelling Bee was stressful, the kids were brave and alcoholic beverages were needed. Stat.

Zucchini – Our favourite vegetable because it is the last words on the list.

Now I can breathe again. Until next year…

Have you watched your kids compete in a Spelling Bee? Please tell me you were as mental as I was?

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You may also like You suck! and Where did I come from? (How not to answer the question.)and Confessions of a Tooth Fairy and The Story of a High Horse.


  1. says

    Dear Mummy: My daughter (now a 17 year old college sophomore) competed in numerous spelling bees from the time she was 6 to 13. After going to Scripps National Spelling bee 5 years in a row, she placed 3rd – a very bitter/sweet experience. I can honestly say I had a love/hate relationship with the whole experience. Spellings bees are not like most “sporting” events – as you know one wrong letter and you’re out. There is so much luck involved. And don’t even get me started on homonyms! EEK! So many of them. However, I still watch the NSB and enjoy seeing those brainiac kids succeed as well as struggle through words. What a great educational experience it was for my daughter and my son and now my 8 year old son. Best of luck to you and Miss M as she continues on the journey of learning new words like rijsttafel (one of my daughter’s favorites) Sincerely, Pamela

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