How do you spell p-r-e-t-e-e-n?


It’s been a few years, but I’m fairly certain I taught my son to speak.

I have a dim recollection of spending many happy afternoons coaxing his sweet baby-self to say, “Mama! Ma-ma! You can do it Sweetie, Mama!,” only to thrill to that blessed, blissful day when he cracked a wide, gummy grin and said clearly and with great feeling: “Da-da!”

That one small instance of treason aside, I’m certain I taught the boy to talk.

How then, to explain the fact he is apparently struck mute when it comes to middle school?

My formerly chatty child seems, overnight, to have become somewhat succinct in any speech pattern relating to school activities.

Is he attending spy school or what?

“How was your day, Dear?”


“Did you learn anything new?”



Granted, some discussion can be whipped up if I mention foursquare. They are in the midst of some fairly heated foursquare tournaments at recess.

Don’t ask me what foursquare is because I don’t know either.

Suffice it to say that it seems to involve bouncing a ball with great force toward your opponent’s head.

That’s all you really need to know to imagine how wildly popular this game is with fifth grade boys.

Once all discussion of the foursquare standings is exhausted, however, we are right back to square one whereby I pay very good money to have my son attend a school where, apparently, “Nothing ever happens.”

To be fair, our son, in a weak moment and after much prodding, may have mentioned taking part in a class spelling bee.

He reported this with the same enthusiasm he would give to, say, reporting he was low on lunch money.

“Hey Mom, I was in the spelling bee. I came in fifth. Do I hafta do dishes tonight? Can I have a snack?”


Not that I wasn’t proud — I was. I envisioned the exact same kind of spelling bee I took part in as a child.

A bunch of us all jammed up front of our sixth grade classroom during fourth period while our classmates who had wisely gone out early on such hurdles as “c-a-t” made faces behind the teacher’s back and attempted to make us laugh out loud and blow our chances at Mr. Barr’s class spelling bee glory.

Thus I was proud, certainly, but I hardly felt the need to sit down and type up a newsletter over it.

So you can spell son, that’s nice. Fifth out of, say, 20 kids in your class? Nice work kid and yes, you do have to do dishes and no snack, you’ll ruin your dinner.

It was probably a week later that I opened up the newspaper to see my son’s photo on page three.

His feat? Coming in fifth in the spelling bee. “My but they do take their classroom spelling bee’s awfully seriously around here.”

So I quizzed Mr. Reluctant. As it turns out, he didn’t come in fifth in his class — he came in fifth in his school — among grades five through eight. (Momentary pause for parental bragging, thank you).

Later, the plot thickened as I happened to bump into the school librarian who commended me on my son’s amazing prowess as the only fifth grader to place in the spelling bee.

The principal mentioned he missed us at the school spelling bee, but certainly hoped to see us when our son competed in the countywide event.


I’m sure they wondered why, rather than beaming, there was smoke coming out of my ears. I missed it. Me, the parent for whom the phrase “If it’s not in the scrapbook, it didn’t happen” is not even remotely a joke! Darn that kid!

How in the world can the boy spend untold hours telling me all about playground politics, but doing remarkably well in his school-wide spelling bee and going on to the countywide honor garners nary a mention?

He still asks me to attend other school functions so fear of my embarrassing him, while understandable, does not yet seem to be an issue.


His explanation? “I forgot.” Then he gave me that mile-wide grin that’s been getting him out of trouble since he first said “Da-da!”

It still saves him after all these years.

I love this boy — I just wish he would talk. I fear my communication with my son during these pre-teen years is going to be a real c-h-a-l-l-e-n-g-e.

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