Things I Will Never Like

Sometimes when our nine year old is angry, he goes to his room to cool down by drawing the thing that made him mad (a mean picture of his brother) or making Keep Out signs or writing down the offending event. Then he returns to family life or homework or the basketball game on the street with a smile.

On a recent weekend evening, he shared a list he had written earlier in the day. The spelling is his (with translation where necessary).

Things I will never like

  • Sewead (steping on)
  • Penut butter
  • Spelling
  • 80s muise
  • Gaming fingers (a.k.a. jamming fingers)
  • Dierreiy (diarrhea)
  • Dring off with a cold wet towel
  • Peolpe that stay inside all day and play video games
  • Peolpe that brag

Funny list.

The Spelling Test

At breakfast on Friday, I was quizzing my third grader for a spelling test, frustrated that too many on the list are completely irrelevant to his eight year old life. “Abstract.” “Contrast.”

We were both distracted. Who cares how to spell “abstract” when you aren’t going to use it in a sentence for at least four more years?

So his older brother, who often brings up random topics, decided it was the ideal moment to explain the Cold War to everyone in the kitchen. “War,” he explained, “is profitable. No one seems to understand that.”


“And the Cold War wasn’t a real war with soldiers shooting each other. It was an escalation of fear by building bigger and bigger weapons. That’s what your book is really about.”

Ahhh, relevance.

In front of the third grader was the book he’d read the night before: The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Suess.

“Triple-sling jigger.” “Tough-tufted prickly.” “Zooks.” And real words for the sticklers, “Slingshot” and “Vigor.”

Words with new relevance. Too bad they’re not on his spelling test. They might stick better.


Bragging Rights

My seven year old decided to join a lacrosse team last month. He had never picked up a lacrosse stick, and needs to focus on schoolwork, but he persisted that he needed to try it. Fall lacrosse is casual, I was told. No practices. Just games. And I thought, how is a kid who has never picked up a stick going to figure this out?

A seven year old boy with a little rage might just end up swinging his stick wildly like a weapon. Yellow card. Yellow card.

But I signed him up.

And on the same day that he brought home a perfect spelling test, he scored his second goal of the season.

At seven, with only five games under his belt, he has already scored more goals than I did in my seven-year career warming the bench on my middle school, high school and college lacrosse teams.

Thank goodness I still have him on spelling tests… for now.

Majek Speling

In the first days of summer, as my son transitioned from kindergarten to first grade, he lost his first tooth. In fact, he yanked it out of his mouth after we claimed it still needed a few more days of wiggle time. No fuss.

“Only a little blood, mom.”

And in the time-honored tradition of our family, he wanted to keep his tooth.

So his first summer homework was to write the tooth fairy a letter, which captured this brief moment in time when losing teeth and learning to read and write are things to celebrate.

Der toothsfary

Plese don’t take

Mi tooths.

Thak you

The 1970s: When Spelling was Fun

Yesterday, I watched a teacher offer her piano student a piece of candy as a reward for practicing the piano so much the previous week. He had a choice between Starburst and Smarties. The Smarties reminded me of third grade Spelling Bees when I was a kid.

The team who won the Spelling Bee each week would get Smarties for their victory. The team that lost received Dum-Dum lollipops.

[Pause. Wait for reaction from today’s parents.]

We loved it. It heightened the competition, although one, who shall remain nameless, often dreamed of throwing the Bee to get a Dum-Dum, which she preferred.

It didn’t matter. Each week, the teams changed, the spelling list stumped different kids, and we eventually all had our chance to be a Dum-Dum or Smartie.

I told that story to the piano teacher, who laughed, “If you did that today, you’d never hear the end of it!”

Interesting response.

So I told another teacher at another school in a different city.

Same response. “That’s awesome! But I can’t even think about the parent phone calls I’d get! You gave my kid a Dum-Dum?!”

A third said, “I wish I could get away with that today!”

As parents, have we lost our sense of humor? Are our kids that much more sensitive today than we were? Are we too afraid to teach them what competition is all about because they might lose? Or as a third grader in the 70s, did I miss one of my classmates having nightmares and confidence issues because of the Dum-Dums for the losing team?

Today the scenario might go like this: One Friday afternoon after losing the Spelling Bee, my child might get handed a Dum-Dum instead of Smarties. He might come home crying because he interpreted that to mean the teacher thought he was dumb. I might call the principal.

That’s not what happened when I was in third grade. We studied our spelling lists harder so we didn’t let down our team. We had fun. The weaker spellers were always with stronger spellers, and even the weakest speller had a chance to shine, to feel proud because they got a hard one for the team. We adored our teacher. We loved being at school. We rooted for – or against, in that case of the Dum-Dum addict – our team for the week. And we all got candy!

What third grader isn’t happy when they get candy at school?

I know my kids would stop complaining about studying for their Friday spelling tests.

“Do I have to?”

“It’s soooo boring!”

And I guarantee you, my son would want to throw the Bee for a Dum-Dum.