The Family Weekly: How the Spelling Bee Ended in an Eight-Way Tie

Plus: What to do when friends choose sides after a divorce, and kids who make ASMR videos online are toeing the line of YouTube’s policies.

(Joshua Roberts / Reuters)

This Week in Family

This year, the Scripps National Spelling Bee ran out of words to stump its final contestants. After 20 rounds, the judges declared an unprecedented eight-way tie. (Previously, the spelling bee had seen only the occasional two-way tie.) How did these teens outsmart the spelling bee? They intensively trained for this moment by using sophisticated software programs to test their knowledge, and mastered the art of deconstructing words based on their sound, meaning, and language of origin. And let’s be honest, the words—such as bougainvillea and pendeloque, which were recycled from previous bees—were just too easy this year.
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Being able to spell aiguillette on live national television with the added pressure of the chance to win $50,000 takes a lot of preparation and dedication to the art of the spelling bee. But in his new book, Range, the journalist David Epstein makes the case for raising your kids to be generalists instead of specialists: Let them explore their interests and find their way to a particular talent they want to succeed in, instead of concentrating resources on one particular hobby or activity.
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(Wenjia Tang)

In this week’s installment of The Friendship Files, five moms talk about how they found one another online after their children were diagnosed with a rare chronic illness. They bonded over one of the toughest experiences of their lives before they ever made it to chatting about their favorite books or PTA meetings or other mundane small talk. “This group is what I always go back to, no matter what,” one mom says. “This is the first place that I go. Or the second, I guess, after my husband.”
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There’s a whole genre of YouTube videos of people making sounds—eating honeycomb, tapping their nails on glass, whispering into a microphone—designed to give you goosebumps and, sometimes, help you fall asleep. These sensory and sensual ASMR videos, as they’re known, can slide into uncomfortable territory when they’re produced by kids. YouTube must now struggle with the proximity these videos have to networks of pedophiles and child pornography.
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When parents get divorced, it can leave a lasting impact on their children: They are 1.2 times more likely to also end up divorced. But that number actually represents a decrease from the 1970s, when the stigma around divorce was more pronounced. While it’s true that kids learn conflict-resolution tactics (or the lack thereof) from their parents, everyone responds to emotional stressors differently. “Some children, later in life, don’t want anything to do with marriage,” Joe Pinsker writes. “Others still pursue it eagerly, on the assumption that they can be wiser than their parents. And plenty of people fall somewhere in between.”
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Most of the picture books and literature about kids in nature tend to tell the stories of white children or pioneering Europeans. That can send the message that nonwhite kids and their families don’t belong in outdoor landscapes having fun hiking, skiing, or exploring. Where are all the children’s books about the outdoors that depict black kids?
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Dear Therapist

(Bianca Bagnarelli)

Every Monday, the psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb answers readers’ questions about life’s trials and tribulations, big or small, in The Atlantic’s “Dear Therapist” column. This week, a man who divorced his wife after 29 years writes in about their mutual friends choosing sides. Most of them have sided with his wife, with whom he is still friendly. Even the friends who do remain in contact with him seem hurt by his decision not to talk openly about the divorce with them, but he needed time and space before sharing his feelings. Is there anything he can do to navigate these rocky friendships?

Lori’s advice: Sometimes your friends’ reactions have less to do with you than with their own circumstances and the tension they perceive—rightly or wrongly. Some friends might be keeping distance simply because they don’t know how to be friends with both the husband and the wife after a divorce, particularly when a friendship was based on memories of an intact marriage and family. Others might worry that they have to alternate invitations to avoid any awkwardness. And perhaps a few friends might fear that being around a happily divorced person will require them to confront issues in their own marriage.

You might find yourself ending friendships that weren’t what you thought they’d been, while also discovering new strengths and commonalities in others. And you’ll be making new friends along the way—friends who will meet you outside of the context of your ex and offer you a fresh start and the opportunity to be seen as you are right now, something your shared friends can’t do in the same way.

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Send Lori your questions at