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“It’s Not Failure If You Learn From It”

When my youngest arrived home with her first kindergarten report card, I was anxious. With good reason. But now that her challenges are documented in black and white, I actually feel a strange sense of relief. Half the battle is knowing your enemy, right?

It was that time of year I dreaded most: report card season. But as much as I dreaded it, that’s how much little my kids cared. In their defense, they were 5 and 9 years old and not overly concerned with their academic futures. Still, I was anxious — especially so because my youngest had just entered kindergarten and would be receiving her first of many report cards.

We started her in kindergarten at age 5 even though she has a July birthday. Some people urged us to hold her back. With a family history of attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) trickling down, I did fear she would struggle in school. At the same time, she was a second child who was 100% emotionally and physically ready for the challenge. So off she went.

Her older sister’s report cards have been consistently “good” — in no small part, thanks to the wonderful SPED staff at her school. Without this support system, I fear that failure would loom large on a daily basis. Fortunately, her IEP, her teachers, and her personal motivation work together to ensure moderate, consistent success in school. After glancing at her report card and acknowledging that I was proud of her hard work, I moved on to examine my younger daughter’s first kindergarten report card. It was “meh” at best. Then I turned it over.

[8 Confidence Builders for Kids with ADHD]

On the back was a checklist of behaviors and characteristics titled “Work Habits.” I saw check marks next to: “Works independently,” “Completes tasks in a timely manner,” “Listens and follows directions,” and “Focuses and stay on task.” I was elated! My baby girl was a tiny success story! I was so excited that I started to take a photo so I could show all the naysayers that she really could do it!

“What are you doing?” My older daughter asked.

“I’m documenting all the things your sister did so well.” I responded.

My nine-year-old waited a beat and then started laughing.

“What?” I asked.

[Why Praise Is So Important for Kids with ADHD]

“Mom! These are areas that she needs to work on — not things she does well!”

I felt my heart sink. I should have recognized that the checkmarks sat next to skills we expected to challenge her. I should have been mortified. I should have called a family meeting. Or scheduled a teacher conference right then and there. I should have done a lot of things, but you know what I did instead? I took a picture of the report card anyway and hugged my little girl a little closer.

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