Spelling Bee

I placed a new picture on my desk at work; it is one that Bee made for me last night, and I can’t stop looking at it. It is abstract; she used her big, fat paint pens, and the bright colours somehow melded together to emulate, almost perfectly, a pattern I recognize from a tie-dyed sarong I wore on the beach in Dahab. It’s beautiful, but what I am having trouble taking my eyes off of, is her name printed at the bottom of the page.

Utterly recognizable, this is not the signature of my former shaky-handed toddler scribe; the letters that make up her name are evenly sized and evenly spaced, barely overlapping. Unlike writing attempts of the immediate past where the letters of her name were, although printed in correct succession, dotted across the page like so many artistic embellishments, the name printed on this picture is, for I believe the first time, laid out in a line.

The letters themselves look animated, exaggerated; unintentionally serif at the hand of their serious, intent author. In the middle of her name, I can hear a conversation – the one where my daughter asks my husband to write the S, which she will then copy. I can see my husband putting his hand over my daughter’s, guiding the pen through the smooth curves, teaching her the motion of this trickiest of letters. And then the evidence of Bee’s determination, her own attempt indelled next to their shared example.
It looks like all of Bee’s printed tries at the letter S – like a long, thin number 3.

Bee used to pronounce her name wrong. She called herself Sha-ha, which is like a weird pig-Latin hybrid of the moniker I bestowed upon her. I never corrected Sha-ha on her pronunciation, and loved it when she would push away my attempts to help her do something, looking me squarely in the eye and proclaiming, ‘Sha-ha do it!’

I can feel Bee’s resolve to print a proper S, and I know she will practice until the motion is instinctual, the symbol, correct. But I will miss seeing her little 3 where an S should be, and as I look at her name printed on the picture she made just for me, the rotund, undeniably legible S dwarfing the thin, unbalanced 3, I can see that a child’s natural, confident expertise will soon overshadow a toddler’s early, unsure venture. It is inevitable, of course: my child will soon emerge, the toddler remaining only in painted pictures and swooping signatures, and I will marvel and shed my share of quiet tears, and wonder how this happens so damn quickly, knowing that it is happening, so damn quickly.

The writing, undoubtedly, is on the wall.


  1. when Josh stopped making his Js backwards, i died a little bit inside. ;)

  2. Crying. That was beautiful. Know that the day N stops saying "lellow" is upon us.

    Also being now neurotic about the fact that N can't write his name yet... ;-)

  3. How dare they grow so fast. Simply lovely kgirl.

  4. Big C is going to kindergarten in September. Where did the time go?

  5. Signed Jane up for JK is what killed me!

  6. so beautiful.
    for us it's the letter E.
    Occasionally lulu will add an extra line in the E, but lately she's stopped. Sniff sniff.

    Its bitter sweet.

    I still love when she's says "opimeal" instead of oatmeal though.

  7. not just on the wall....scratched with fingernails.....and a sassy smile of course.

  8. Wait til kindergarten starts... Somehow, by Christmas, there was writing and spelling and reading. It's awe-inspiring to watch it just all bloom right in front of you. Makes a mama heart burst with pride, it does.

  9. It amazed me the first time Linus wrote his name. I didnt even know he knew how! Now he writes like a pro...jk has been good!

  10. Ah, so sweet... the vertigo of the changes in these years leaves me breathless, too. I was reading my birthday post for Simon a year ago, and can't believe I didn't notice when he stopped saying "lellow" for "yellow." Thank goodness I've immortalized at least a few pieces of them in the blog, if nothing else.

  11. Beautiful post.... I'm in no rush for Monkey to perfect her S's.... I can't believe she's going to Kindergarten next year. We just signed her up yesterday....

  12. Lovely.
    My Baby can write her own name now, self-taught - which means that her R's are a bit funky, a wobbly bubble balancing on two shaky legs.

  13. I wondered if I had missed something because it seemed to happen all of a sudden as you describe, suddenly the letters all clear and unmistakably intentional. The heart swells with pride but the eyes prick with tears.
    I love this stuff.

  14. This is a beautiful post, K.

    I cannot believe how fast they grow. Oliver and were lying in his bed a few nights ago, reading a book about the alphabet. And I realized then that he knew all of the alphabet in English and part of it in French, knew all his colours and could count to twelve in French. It's not that I didn't know that, it's just that...it really sunk in that night.

    Then I went downstairs and filled out the form that came home with Julia for him to start JK this September, and after that, I sat at the breakfast bar and had a nice little cry.

  15. What a beautiful, beautiful post. As a mom of a toddler (3) and baby (1) I know exactly what you mean. They grow so quickly don't they. Capture those moments.

    What a great blog find you are!


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