“As is a tale, so is life. It is not how long it is, but how good it is that matters.” ~Seneca
This is the time of year for finishing–across the country, students are finishing preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, and college. While none of our sons have reached a traditional educational milestone this year, we realized that some of their day-to-day trials and tribulations are worthy of at least a small bit of the celebration we save for those momentous occasions.
Recently, Kim’s ninth grade son, Matthew, took an English exam. In spite of thoroughly preparing for the test, the exam was hard. So hard, in fact, that thirty-five minutes into the ninety minute test, he decided it wasn’t worth finishing. He handed the test to the proctor and walked out.
As you would expect, the fallout for not finishing this exam is a failing grade. Given the work that he has done in the course to improve and even excel, failing this test left him feeling defeated. He was ready to write letters of angry protest and picket for justice, which in this case meant an easier exam.
For Kim, watching Matthew struggle–and fail–triggered a complex array of emotions ranging from empathy to her own feelings of failure as a parent, thus complicating an already complicated situation. She wanted to do something to make the situation “right” but struggled to know what that was. Fortunately, her own conflict consumed her long enough for Matthew to fully digest the experience. After giving it a great deal of thought, Matthew realized for himself that if he studied differently–and harder–he would be able to pass this exam. He petitioned for a retake (which has been granted) and he is gearing up to take the exam again.
In her commencement speech at Harvard University in 2008, J.K. Rowling reminded graduates that, “Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case, you fail by default.” As you finish this school year and celebrate your children’s accomplishments, we hope that you will at least pause and give a nod to failure, for without it, great success would not be possible.