My mantra these past almost eleven years of parenting has been that NOTHING, I mean NOTHING is as hard as potty training.  For us, and the Scroggins Hoodlums, this was by far the most difficult skill to master.  Even given the current status of my oh-so-not-into-school-kindergartener, I’d rank potty training as harder.

Until now.

Yesterday, our oldest hoodlum competed in the Regional Spelling Bee.  Reading, Writing, Spelling, Acting…anything with words and letters is completely her thing.  She’s a dog with a bone when she’s talking plot or word parts.  Because of that, she was pumped for the contest, completely high on her ability to put letters together in the correct sequence of a word.  We studied.  She studied.  We studied some more.  We were all prepped and ready.

When we arrived at the contest, I think we all were a little overwhelmed.  It was held on TCU’s campus, and was quite an official event, with printed signs and ready made name tags.  After a light breakfast snack, all the spellers and families headed into the ballroom to hear the rules, and the spellers took the stage.  At that point I realized we might be in over our heads.  The contest was held for third through eighth graders, and from the looks of the spellers, most were very mature eighth graders.  When the contest began, I knew we were in over our heads.  Many of the spellers asked for root words, definitions, parts of speech, etc.  It was exactly like all the Spelling Bees I’ve seen in movies–this was the real deal.

Watching our hoodlum walk across the stage to the microphone, listen to the words, and tentatively ask questions was…difficult.  On her final word, she looked at the moderator, asked for the word again, and turned three shades of red.  She held on to the bottom of her shirt and started to spell…A.  It seemed like hours while I watched the gears turn in her head, and her mouth say the word as she fidgeted on stage.  Finally, she finished…uria.  But, it was Aria, the soprano solo in an opera.  She was crushed, disappointed, and deflated.  It was heartbreaking.

I know it built character.  That’s what my mother always told me when something like this built my own, but it broke this mommy’s heart.  She recovered through the day, but I still saw the ghost of disappointment pass across her face as we celebrated all the successful words spelled up to that point.

She’s vowed to return to the Bee again next year, and to begin studying now, which is an amazing feat for her really.  At times I wonder if she thinks she was born with the ability to read.  I know she looked to those older girls with respect, and hopes to strive for that kind of success again.

I knew there would be moments like this.  I knew there had to be moments like this.  I didn’t know that it would feel like my own heart fell out of my chest and onto the floor as someone stomped on it.  I didn’t know that I would wish for superpowers, and hope for time to freeze as I snuggled my hoodlum to a safe, cozy place to recover.  I didn’t know that I could will something to happen with every cell in my body, and feel the hurt in those same cells when it  didn’t happen.  I know there will be more moments like this–probably many more.  Next time I will try to prepare The Mommy as much as I prepare The Hoodlum.