It was the fourth week into grade 7 and I had just turned 12 years old a few days earlier when my homeroom teacher stopped teaching to tell us the time had arrived for student council elections.
A thrill zipped through me as I envisioned my victory and I started planning my campaign. At lunch, I wandered over to the bulletin board and declared myself a candidate for class secretary, my pen poking a hole through the paper and into the cork underneath as I signed my name. I wasn't particularly interested in being a secretary of any sort and I had no actual idea of what my duties would entail but it was the position with the least amount of candidates running and I figured it was my best bet to win.
I ran the worst campaign. I put up ONE poster. I stammered through my speech. But it didn't matter. I WANTED it. I could taste victory and I was self-deluded and brazen enough to think that a 12-year-old kid with no friends or alliances in a new school I had only been in a month could actually win.
Shockingly, I lost. I didn't just lose. I was annihilated. In a twist of adult cruelty, the vote count was announced for every candidate. I remember my cheeks burning with shame as my homeroom teacher revealed the votes.
Tanis Miller - 1.
One lousy vote out of a school of hundreds. And that lone vote was my own.
I was crushed.
I could feel my chest tighten and my eyes started to blink rapidly and I was mortified to find myself unable to hold back my tears. I can still taste the humiliation and shame of that moment on my tongue.
I never, ever, ran for any voting based positions again. One loss was one too many for my fragile deluded ego.
I buried the memory of my council bid beneath years of other puberty related humiliations and soon enough life had supplied plenty of other cruelties to help me forget my seventh grade shame.
And then, my daughter announced she was running for class president.
Suddenly I was wearing aqua green eyeliner, picking my zits and trying to avoid being stuffed into a locker all over again.
Ken wasn't worried. She already held the positions of class treasurer and vice president. She was ready to try and tackle the presidency. Her self-confidence never waivered, even when she learned she was running opposite one of the more popular kids in her grade. A kid even I couldn't help but like.
My daughter? She was Tracy Flick. Utterly convinced she was the best candidate for the job.
Me? I couldn't stop hearing the laughter of my classmates ring in my ears as the vote count was read out.
So while my daughter set about campaigning for presidency, making her posters, writing her speech, gathering allies and whatever it is one does during an election, I twitched.
I didn't want my daughter to relive my horror, nor did I want to sully her confidence with my fear. It felt like I was walking on a tight rope over the fires of hell and that's when I knew I had to chill out. My kid would fall and brush herself off or she would succeed. But my loss was not a guarantee of hers.
For the most part, I managed to keep my mouth shut. I helped her craft a few slogans, offered to pay for some poster boards and nodded along as she talked about what her pre-election speech would be. On the surface, I was a levelheaded responsible adult encouraging her daughter to try her best. On the inside, I was stabbing every teenager I encountered with the power of my mind.
"Win with dignity, lose with grace," I would tell my daughter every day. Ken would roll her eyes and sigh "Yes Mom," every time I said it but she didn't realize I wasn't saying it to her. I was saying it for me.
I was reliving my grade seven year all over again but this time I was determined not to burst into tears in front of the entire class.
The morning of the election I wished Ken good luck in her election and I told her how proud I was. How the results didn't matter, only her efforts counted. How her confidence and perseverance amazed me. And it does. I lost one race and never tried again. My kid has been putting herself out there since junior high, despite what anyone thought of her.
That afternoon, the phone rang.
"The results are in Mom," she said quietly.
"And???" I asked half believing she won, half fearing she lost.
"I won!" she squealed and my heart sped up and I inhaled sharply. She had done what I never dared attempt.
"Congratulations! You did it!" She yammered on for a few minutes about who won the other races and how the day went and I half listened. It was hard to hear over my inner 12 year old hooting and hollering in a victory dance.
It turns out my daughter wasn't ever Tracy Flick. I was. And like Tracy, I was a big loser.
I've never been prouder my daughter didn't follow in my footsteps. She isn't anything like me.
Class President 2013.