Smart Spelling

Back in the day when my kids were itty bitty wee ones, when they were cute and little and could be tied to a chair to get them to sit still, (with a sweater people...I tried to avoid rope...left too many burn marks), I used to sing that annoying song The Wheels On the Bus to them all the time.

(Gotta admit, I kinda wish I had used that version...)

When I wasn't singing them the bus song...the cleaner version...I was prancing around, shaking my booty and belting out my wedding song.

Ah, memories. How sweet they are. I can still see my mother and MIL's faces when the music started.

I digress. From an early age, the school bus has played a role in my children's lives; morphing from a silly bonding song where they were subjected to the off key hollering of their tone deaf mother to what is now their primary mode of daily transportation, where they spend almost two hours of each day being bumped and shuffled along until the bus safely arrives at the end of my driveway.

The distant rumble of the school bus serves as an alarm for me to get my ass off the computer and grab a vacuum. I wouldn't want them to know I spend most of the day on the Internets, surfing for porn reading blogs, while wearing a bathrobe.

I do have an image to maintain.

Yesterday, as they scampered up our long driveway and burst into the house like a pack of rabid rhinoceroses, they brought with them more excitement than normal.

I am unaccustomed to such an entry. Usually they are fighting and arguing and racing to rat one another out over who said the dirtiest word on the school bus.

This cheerful entry had me suspicious.

"Hey peeps. What's up?" I asked as I looked for evidence of a sugar high. No candy wrappers in sight. No sugar on their breath. Hmmm...

"Mom! I'm trying out for the spelling bee competition and if I win I get to go to the Scripps National spelling bee in Washington!" Waves of excitement are rolling off this kid now.

"Well, it can't be as simple as that, kiddo. They don't just hand out tickets to that event to any hillbilly."

"Well, I've got to win the school competition, the regional competition, the national competition and then I go to Washington," she replied nonchalantly, as though it were as simple as bending over and tying ones shoe laces.

"That's a lot of competition. Are you up for it?"

"Absolutely. I love spelling."

Not one to kill the joy in my child's eye, I hugged her and tried to block out my own painful memories of losing the school spelling bee to a snotty little jerk who wore suspenders and constantly teased me about being flat chested. Pimply little freak.

"Will you help me study?" How can I turn down those beautiful blue eyes? Besides, surely this is better than listening to the joyous sounds of elephants rutting when she breaks out the ole French horn.

I love this. I love watching her excitement to learn. I love witnessing her cutthroat competitive streak. This is one of those moments that make all the other parenting crap I've endured worth it, I think to myself.

And then she hands me the list. With hundreds of words on each page, double sided, and an inch thick. Suddenly I'm not loving this parenting moment so much.

"Um, how long do you have to learn all of these words?"

"A week."

Seven days. No problem. Let me just go find my magic wand and magical top hat.

Not wanting to let my bad attitude color her experience, I buckle down and start tossing out words. It went well. For about four words. Then it got decidedly more complicated.

"MAIEUTIC." I have to admit, by now I'm not even paying attention. My mind is elsewhere. Like imagining George Clooney alone on a tropical beach, with me, feeding me peeled grapes.

"Can I have the definition, please," Fric asks very politely, like a seasoned veteran of spelling bees.

"How the hell should I know? Get thee to a dictionary." Like, duh.

"Well then can you at least tell me what is the origin of the word?" She's looking at me like I just crawled out of a hole and grew a second nose.

"Um, a smart one?" I offer.

"Didn't you go to school, like university?" she asked all haughty and snotty sounding.

"Ya, but I must have slept through the day they taught us that word."

Moving on.

"POIESIS," I stammer. How the fuck does one say half these words, I think to myself as I scan the list looking for any word I recognize.

"I don't think that's how you say it, Mom," Fric argues.

"Just spell the damn word." Kids these days. Give them an inch, they run off and try to choke you with it.

"I'd like the definition please."

"So would I. Go get a dictionary."


"Fine. It means 'chicken of the sea.' I was just teasing you before. I know what all these words mean." Beads of sweat are starting to pop up on my brow now. I haven't felt this much pressure since I was a teenager and trying to pass my driver's exam and I forgot to disengage the parking brake.

"You're lying."

"You're getting smarter by the minute, kid."

"Sheesh. Never mind. Remind me not to go to the same school you went to."

"Looking at this list, honey, I'd have to agree. I don't know where my tuition dollars went to but it certainly wasn't teaching me the English language."

Cue rolling of the eyeballs.

We continued on this path for an hour. The longest hour of my life since Bug was crowning and I was trying to push his oversized head out my teeny tiny pink parts. Come to think of it, this hour was almost as painful too.

I never thought I'd say it, but I really wish she'd just stick to practicing the French horn. How I miss the sounds of animal carnage coming from her room.

I'm all for helping my child learn. And I applaud any activity that increases my child's knowledge and vision of the world. But there has to be a line drawn in the sand. It's bad enough I don't know what the hell I'm doing as a parent, but to participate in providing proof to my children that I don't know everything, that I'm not as smart as God, well, that's just foolish.

Tonight, when I hear the rumble of the school bus, I'm hiding. I'm not as dumb as that spelling list made me look.