Kelly had a remarkable first year at Davidson International Baccalaureate Middle School. Like her brother, she completed the year with straight A's in all courses, including some subjects she'd never taken before, like Spanish and Keyboarding. She is one of three students who were 'A Honor Roll' for the entire grade level. She competed in the Science Olympiad and played Classic soccer for the full year. Her reports were sharp and well-written, her artwork was beautiful, and her work ethic was first rate. The homework load was steep—we knew that going in—but Kelly handled every assignment without my assistance, and still managed three soccer training sessions a week, plus helped me coach her little sister's team. That meant soccer five days a week for her, plus games, plus all the extracurriculars that go with having an artist dad: journaling, sketchbooks, time in the studio, and tons of extra reading.
I don't always know how to congratulate her for her continued and persistent excellence. On the one hand, I don't want to gush all the time—and quite frankly, I am blown away more often than not, so I fear that I default to the 'quietly appreciative' with knowing pats, and nods of 'well done.' On the other hand, I know a thing or two about performing at a high level without being appreciated—and I remember that feeling that getting good grades was just expected, and no longer noteworthy.
So I have tried to forge a new dynamic: quietly appreciating Kelly's hard-working approach without making too much of a fuss over every little thing, but then sprinkling in positive feedback in short intense moments where I ask her to look at me, focus on what I'm saying and then verbally acknowledge how proud I am of her on a day to day basis, whether it be remarking on a good report, or hard work at soccer, or for taking the time to really help one of her siblings with their homework. And then on a broader level, taking her aside to tell her how much I appreciate her hard work on a monthly level. And then something more elaborate on a quarter level, after report cards: a big dinner, a day out on the lake, etc. And then a year-end celebration and reward of technology, this year an iPhone, because it really is quite remarkable that she made it through this rigorous program without getting any B's. A good deal of her very smart and very competitive friends got tripped up by a stern keyboarding teacher, or an equally strict foreign language instructor.
I hope she looks back at her remarkable childhood one day and reads this blog, and all these posts, and can then grasp just how phenomenally proud I am of her.