Tuesday, November 29, 2005

How Cellophane Made Me See Clearly

You know how people think their little one is The Cutest and The Smartest Child Ever? I have never been under that delusion. And that is yet another reason why I wonder if perhaps something is wrong with me.

I suppose it all goes back to my early days as an elementary school student. I thought I was The Smartest Girl in the school because I was a mighty fine student. I loved learning. I loved writing. I loved all things academic. I loved spelling and I especially loved Fridays in fifth grade when we'd have math games at the blackboard. I always won. I was very smart, indeed. (And humble.)

Then, the world collapsed and my parents divorced and I realized I was fat (though at a completely normal weight and normal size). And then *cue ominous music* sixth grade happened.

I easily won my classroom spelling bee and went on to the all-school spelling bee. I intended to win, as I was The Best Speller. Or so I thought. Then I encountered the word, "cellophane," and I fell apart. Cellophane? I was out. Back in my homeroom, I found a small folded paper . . . I unfolded it and found "C-E-L-L-O-P-H-A-N-E" pencilled in block letters.*

That was the beginning of my personal realization. I was not the Smartest Girl in the School. I was definitely not the Cutest Girl in the School. I was just another kid, an tall girl with brown eyes and dishwater blond hair who couldn't spell "cellophane."

My quest for perfection was not yet over, though. I intended to graduate with a 4.00 grade point average. And then came that fateful class in high school in which I received a B+. Stupid, stupid, alcoholic choir teacher. Not that I'm still bitter, but that woman gave me a B+ for the semester grade, even though I had excellent attendance, participation and an A for my first quarter grade. I received a B for the second quarter because I missed a choir contest--which I explained to her in advance that I'd have to miss due to a prior commitment. She gave me extra credit so I could make up the deficit. She implied that the extra credit would make up for the missed contest.

And then she ruined my grade point average. The grown-up Mel would have protested, but the teenage Mel accepted the unjust grade with dismay. If only I knew then what I know now.

So, where am I going with this long-winded dissertation? Well.

All I have to do is look around and I see people who are smarter than me, more talented than me, cuter than me, skinnier than me, and who understand poetry and politics. And I dearly love my children, but I see them clearly. I know they are not the cutest, smartest, cleverest children ever.

Maybe I'm just a little crabby tonight. As you can see, I have no illusion that I'm correct . . . but I am definitely sure that I am irritable and unlikely to win Miss Congeniality. And my kids? They are terrific, but so are a lot of other kids . . . and mine aren't spoiled rotten brats who think they deserve to be treated like royalty.

*I never did find out who put that little slip of paper in my desk.


Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

We all have our haunting memories of our intellectual come-upings.
Mine was not knowing the national flower of Wales. It was on a Reach for the Top radio game show. Our school team lost with Prince Philip looking on.

I am sure no one but me remembers. But I should have known: I had a Welsh pen pal. The answer is the leek. Every visit to the produce section of the market is a cruel reminder of my shameful ignorance.

3:38 AM  
Blogger Angi said...

Mine was 5th grade, the entire year was awful. I was so glad to finish that year, it totally ruined my self esteem.

I try to keep open eyes about my kids, and tend to think the worst because of it. They know I love them, but I refuse to say "my child would never do that". Just as sure as I do, they will do it. lol.

5:30 AM  
Blogger Eyes said...

As a non-parent, I think that is one thing that drives me nuts! People think their kid should be th center of the universe! Hello! I've always said if I was a parent, I wouldn't be delusional either. How could I be? People are people: young and old.

I had a teacher tell us if we scored 97% of less in our English class, we'd get an F. I argued that one like a fool, and got nowhere!

7:36 AM  
Blogger The Dung Beetle said...

I definately identify with this post... especially when it comes to how you view your kids. I feel similarly about mine. They may not be on the honor roll, but they are good, well-mannered children with a good foundation... which is more than I could say about my own upbringing.

7:37 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I couldn't spell "jump" in my first grade spelling bee. G-U-M-P was the best I could do. I was beat everyday by half a step in the 100 yard dash in fifth grade. The same girl...(sigh) everyday. Second place is not so bad. ;) BTW- I think your kids are pretty darn cute!

7:40 AM  
Blogger Julana said...

I was also very smart in school. I think you were fortunate to get dis-abused of your brilliance so early. It took me a lot longer. :-)

I'm so glad I came here today; I learned the national flower of Wales is a LEEK! Good grief. What do the gardens look like over there? Have to ask Being Barbara.

8:05 AM  
Blogger jackabug said...

I used to have to try to be perfect to get the attention I needed.
(Where did the folded piece of paper come from? just wondering)

8:36 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

Entering high school caused me to realize that I was only somewhat middling on all academic accounts.

As for my son, I do happen to think he is the best, but isn't that what parents are for? ;)

8:53 AM  
Anonymous Stacy said...

Thanks you, thank you, thank you! I think the same way about my kids and battle feelings of inadequacy from time to time. You expressed it better than I ever have. Here's to all the moms that have taken off the rose-colored glasses. If there were more of us loving our children but not living in denial or rescuing them from any accountability, what a better place the world would be.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

What a wonderful and honest post. I am the same way. I know my children are wonderful children but not because they are perfect by any means! There are so many days that if the gypsies came by looking for kids, mine would be gone! LOL Seriously though, I think it is a wise parent who can look at his/her child and know that they will make mistakes. It sure makes parenting easier when those mistakes do happen (and they WILL happen!). I also have a sister who thinks her children are wonderful and the fact that her oldest got in trouble for CHOKING a little girl has nothing to do with the child, only those who were in charge at the time. It's sad really and such a disservice to the children.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Just found your blog! Boy does your post sound like me in terms of the spelling! I am still an excellent speller, but still stumble on broccoli/brocolli (it's the first one I think)
same with my kids. Sure they are bright, but not the brightest in the world. And, I know when they misbehave, not to blame it on anyone but them.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Jan said...

I have been praying lately for help accepting my children as they are and not as I think they should be. Accepting them with all their problems and messiness. If I can't accept them, how can I ever accept me, more messy than all of them put together? Poor things.

2:05 PM  
Blogger WordsRock said...

I admire parents who can accept their children, warts and all. It's part of the joy of being human.

I can't believe it was a choir grade that ruined your average!


3:07 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

I have a 41 year old brother-in-law who still lives at home with mommy. He has never had a full time job. Never. He steals from her - and who knows what else.

But, it isn't his fault. Never was, never will be.

My kids grew up seeing this. I never said a word until my oldest son announced one day that he wanted to be like his uncle.

I haven't shut up since.

6:36 PM  
Blogger dinodoc said...

Gee, I didn't realize that YOU BEAT ME IN THE 6TH GRADE SPELLING BEE. Heck, I don't think I even got out of the classroom contest that year. And next year....well at least your downfall was a big long word like "cellophane". Mine was shrapnel. Which, whilst typing this, I *still* put a "c" in it. (Not that I'm bitter.)

10:27 AM  

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