Celebrating the First “F”

My daughters used to ask me all the time what I would do if they came home with an “F” on a test. They were terrified of failing a quiz or an exam.

I began to say: “Well, I’d ask what you didn’t understand on the test, and then I’d celebrate that you’re not perfect.”

They’d say, “No, really! Would I get in trouble? What would you do?”

Our family once valued achievement so much that the stress of grades consumed even my children. Everything was about earning the A. Everything was about excellence.

And then my wise counselor reminded me (right around the end of elementary school) that the goal of all this education was cultivating curiosity and wonder for a lifetime. It’s not about avoiding the “F.” It’s not about achievement.

So I began telling my children stories of failure and recovery from failure. Let me tell you about the time I failed here. Let me tell you all about it! And look! I’m still right here, alive and well. I survived it! And I’m as curious as ever! Let me tell you what I’m learning. Let me tell you about this beautiful life I’m living even though I’m a failure here, here, and here! 

Everyone has their “F” story, and sometimes it’s good to celebrate them because nobody’s perfect, everyone makes mistakes, and experiencing that humbling “F” does wonders for the soul. The “F” means we take a step back and think about what we’re learning and why. And once you get that worst grade ever, you realize you’re still the same lovable, wonderful person you were before the test.

So when it happens, we take a moment and celebrate. I’m serious. We don’t celebrate laziness or ignoring assignments or not doing one’s best, but we do celebrate that moment when you know you’re not perfect.

We’ve all made it beyond the “F,” and so will you.




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