Merriam Webster’s Third Unabridged Dictionary de-fines “fall short” as being deficient, or failing to attain, reach, arrive at or perform something. After hundreds of hours of study of the 472,000-plus words in this very same dictionary, I find the headline in Monday’s Iola Register discouraging and feel a need to request that more thought goes into selecting the headlines when a child, such as my daughter, Clara, has given his or her all and doesn’t meet the expectations of the local newspaper. Deficient? Failing?
Last year a similar headline was used when Clara did not advance to the semi-finals at the national bee. Out of 12 million kids who started the bee, 40 advanc-ed. By the rules of the bee, the other 250 kids tied for 41st. In my mind, being 41st out of 12 million does not come up short. The decision to enter the bee again this year took many months for Clara to make. This year, 50,000 kids were whittled down to less than 50 in the third round of the regional bee.
“Falling short,” in this manner depends, I guess, on expectations.
Our expectations as parents were simple. Do your best, and “bee” a good sport. For Clara, this was negotiated to studying at least 30 minutes most days in order to live up to the honor of representing her county at the regional bee. As a family, we realize that the trip last year to the national bee was the result of study, being able to spell under stressful circumstances and a certain amount of luck. This year despite studying more words than ever, Clara missed a word. The life lesson in handling disappointment is not an easy one to learn. The support of those who know and love Clara has meant a lot to her. The life lesson in handling pressure is also difficult for a 12-year-old.
The movie “Spellbound” is very interesting, especially after having attended the national bee. One parent in the movie states that spelling bees are a form of child abuse, and in a way we agree. Hours of study re-quire giving up activities and down time.
Living under the incredible pressure these kids are under from both themselves and those around them is difficult. In the end, life goes on for everyone, and the hope is that the effort in reaching the national bee is worth the sacrifices made.
To those who called, both times, to say they were sorry about the headlines, I wanted to say thank you. I rewrote the one from last summer with a black marker in the scrapbook, and will do it again this time. To the Register, I want to let you know that Clara would be happy to lend you her 26-pound dictionary if you need some help finding words to describe a valiant effort for another child, in any undertaking.
And to Clara, we love you! We’re proud of you. You did well.