Performing under pressure in front of a crowd is nothing new to my 12-year old daughter.
In fact, just three days ago, her dance troop was the opening act at a packed arena before an NBA game.
This afternoon, the crowd was in the hundreds, not thousands, but the pressure felt like no other.
It was her school spelling bee, attended by the entire student body.
She was one of a dozen participants looking to win the title and represent her school in the district championships.
In the past, work has precluded me from being able to attend such events. But as they say, unemployment has its benefits.
Like many of us, I’ve enjoyed the National Spelling Bee, watching kids sweat it out and in some cases pass out, from the competition.
But I’ve never had anything invested in it.
I can guarantee that being a parent during a spelling bee is 1,000 times worse than being a participant.
While I was sweating out EVERY letter, my daughter was calmly cruising through her words.
I was sitting there spelling each word in my head like it was going to make a difference, but she certainly didn’t need my help.
One-by-one, the contestants fell.
One of the rules that eliminated several kids was that once you started spelling your word, you had to keep going. No turning back.
That would’ve knocked me out, about 10 times.
As they moved from round-to-round, the crowd started getting into it. More oohs and aahs than a fourth of July fireworks show.
In the end, it came down to one other contestant and my daughter, in that order.
The school principal made it clear that if contestant #1 missed a word, my daughter would have to spell the next word correctly, plus one more word to win the title.
On cue, girl #1 misspelled the word, Scholarship -- I’m not that sharp, but there’s an irony in there somewhere -- which set up my daughter for the win.
Two words later, we had a victory.
Now for the record, I am NOT one of “those” parents.
I was truly prepared to take my daughter out for ice cream for finishing 3rd or 4th. I was proud of her for just trying.
But when it got down to the final two, I started rooting. Quietly.
Unfortunately, the girl who finished second took it very hard, as if she had just lost a spelling scholarship.
My daughter on the other hand took it all in stride.
Not a sweat mark anywhere.
Except on my face.