Monday, October 3, 2011

Sandy and the Bee

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were flipping through the channels and stumbled across a charming movie called “Akeelah and the Bee”, about a young inner city girl who competes in the National Spelling Bee. She has a spelling coach who notices that every time she spells a word, she slaps her hand rhythmically against her leg with each letter. He realizes that the rhythm and pattern help her learn the words, so he teaches her new words while she jumps rope, one letter for each jump. And at the pivotal final scene, where the last word will determine whether she wins or loses, she begins to spell the word, then falters, then we see a quick flashback to her learning to spell that very word as she jumps rope. She smiles and confidently jumps with an imaginary jump rope as she correctly spells the word to win the bee.

I particularly appreciate this movie at the moment because I’ve just reached the Spelling Stage of motherhood. And the main reason I’ve reached it is that my son has reached a milestone in his development: the Instant Gratification Stage. He doesn’t deal well with not getting what he wants RIGHT THIS SECOND. He has no concept of “soon” or “after” or “later”. He wants what he wants and he wants it NOW. And heaven forbid that I put an idea into his head of something that he might want, because there will be a meltdown if he doesn’t get it immediately. And so enter the magic trick of spelling things.

Yesterday we were celebrating my sister’s birthday at my grandmother’s house, and I had offered to bring the cake. So before we left the house, there was a large chocolate cake sitting on the kitchen table. Naturally, as soon as Ryan saw it, he demanded “CAKE!” And when I told him it was for later, he hurled himself on the floor and sobbed. When we were ready to leave and I put him in the car, he saw the cake in the front seat and again pleaded, “CAKE!” and when I told him we’d have some after dinner, he sobbed again. By the time we arrived at the party, he was happy again and I wanted to keep him that way, so I carefully told my husband, “I’ll bring in the baby and you bring in the C-A-K-E, then I’ll come back for him.”

Now, “cake” is not such a difficult word to spell, but there are other trigger words that are a bit tougher. “Playground”, for example. It’s not that complicated a word, and I’m a pretty good speller, but I have a very hard time spelling words out loud. If I can write a word down, I’m fine. But if I have to spell out loud without paper and pencil in front of me, I struggle. So it’s no surprise that I recently asked my husband, as we were on the way home from running errands with the kids in tow, “Do we have time to stop at the P-L-A-Y-G…uh…blah blah blah?”

I guess I’ll have to work on my verbal spelling skills. So if you see me out and about with my son and I suddenly start pantomiming jumping rope, you’ll know why.

My son with three of his favorite things: M-I-L-K, C-A-K-E, and a T-R-U-C-K.


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