My daughter won her school Spelling Bee last month which allowed her to advance to the District Spelling Bee where the age range went all the way up to 8th grade! She held her own, and was so confident. She made it into the top 12 spellers. Then it happened – she got one wrong, and just like that – she was out.
She looked at me, with tears in her eyes, and said, “I am so sorry!”
As a mother, I cannot even begin to tell you how much my heart hurt to hear her apologize to me for something as small as spelling a word wrong! I looked at her and asked, “Why on earth would you ever apologize to me for this? Do you have any idea how proud I am of you?!?”
She looked at me and said, “I just don’t ever want you to be disappointed in me.”
My heart broke.
I felt her pain, and it took every ounce of strength in my body not to break down into tears myself. I have carried that same fear inside of me my entire life. I never wanted to be a disappointment to anyone, and yet, I also know what it feels like to BE an actual disappointment.
I understood that she was projecting her own feelings of disappointment onto me, and that, in that moment, she really believed I must be disappointed in her too.
I did not want to invalidate her feelings.
I lifted up her chin so I could look straight into her beautiful blue eyes and said, “You do not ever have to apologize to me, or anyone else, for doing your absolute best! Do you understand me? I know you are feeling disappointed right now, but believe me when I say – I am NOT disappointed in you. Quite the opposite, actually! I am sooo incredibly proud of you! I am in awe of your confidence.”
She looked at me and said, “But I didn’t even get top ten….” 😢
“Madelyn, did you set a goal for yourself to win your school Spelling Bee this year?”
“Did you practice really hard every night leading up to that Spelling Bee?”
“Did you accomplish your goal of winning your School Spelling Bee?”
“So this District Spelling Bee was a little something extra you got to do because of your hard work?”
Yeah, like a bonus! A Bonus Spelling Bee!
“There you go! You accomplished your goal! And you got to participate in a bonus competition…with big bad 8th graders!!!That is amazing!”
As a mother, I know I don’t always say and do the right things. I have a habit of apologizing for things that I have no business apologizing for – usually in an attempt to keep the peace. I am critical of myself and my own accomplishments and I use self-deprecating humor as a form of armor when I am feeling insecure or inadequate in my life. Until my daughter apologized to me for something as simple as spelling a word wrong , I honestly don’t think I was putting much thought into how my words/actions were impacting her.
So today, I am continuing to grow and learn. I am learning that my own insecurities can sometimes bleed into the emotional well-being of my daughter, and that no matter how many times I tell her that I love her and that I am proud of her – she is always going to have fears and feelings of her own.
She sees me when I am critical of myself, and I don’t want her to start thinking that self-loathing is “normal” behavior. My goal moving forward is to be kinder to myself, not only when my daughter is watching, but when NOBODY is watching too. We all deserve the same love and respect we so easily give to others.
I am so proud of my daughter. I wish I could make her believe that without any doubt, but I cannot. So I will just have to keep telling her…over and over and over again 🤩💜
Today she was back at in-person school, and at the end of the day she came running out of the building holding up the trophy she received for her first place finish in her School Spelling Bee – and the smile on her face told me she was proud of herself too!
Sigh…life is good today 💜