Forging a ‘failure for life’ in first grade


There is a certain, delicious agony in failing first grade.
Granted, it’s virtually impossible to really flunk out on the second day of school, but me, I’m an overachiever.
The new school year started out with the best intentions. We were all about the brand-spanking-new book bags, the neatly packed lunch boxes, the shiny, new shoes and welcome back notes from well-rested teachers.
Clearly, this was going to be “our” year to shine.
Particularly for our six-year-old entering the “big leagues” of first grade, fresh from the cozy, cosseted world of kindergarten.
Then, we lost the frog math and it was all for naught.
One hop back. Now, normal parents know there is certainly NO correlation between lost, first-grade math homework and, say, future entry to the hallowed halls of higher education.
I mean, no one was ever kept out of Harvard on the shame of having lost a frog paper in the first grade, right?
Not me. I was convinced it was only day two of first grade and already, black marks were being entered in my permanent record.
Look, we all know that permanent records in elementary school are as much about the parent as the child.
If your 16-year-old loses his math homework, well, the kid needs to get it together.
When your six-year-old loses her homework – on the second day of school, no less – I have no doubt that a savvy teacher sizes you up as a complete and utter dunce.
Marked. I don’t want to be marked as one of “those” parents.
Completely devoid of care, concern and respect for education or the need of a really sharp No. 2 pencil. The slatternly type who forgets to sign report cards. The negligent one who fails to show on conference night.
You know, the type who loses first grade homework on the second day of school.
Granted, NORMAL parents would have made a cursory stab at finding it and then gone on to a peaceful, pleasant evening, and full life, even. It’s FROG MATH, for goodness sake.
Or, has a frog on it, but is about math? Maybe you count the frogs or something? Honestly, I don’t know – I never saw the thing.
My dear husband insists HE saw it, however. And, it was BRILLIANTLY completed, he might add, but the teacher will just have to trust him on that because, heaven knows, it’s not like she’ll ever get to see it.
I do crazy things; I fully admit it. Spending roughly three and half hours searching the house from top to bottom for the frog math paper is probably going to count against me as one of those things.
Again, the average parents, secure and, quite frankly, having better things to do, would at some point just LET IT GO.
That’s so not me. I prefer a nice, feverish obsession.
I searched high and low. Under beds. Behind bookshelves. In the dishwasher, for pity’s sake. We searched trash cans, recycle bins and her brother’s book bag (which was utterly safe – there was NO homework in there).
Oops. Now, we all make mistakes with our children.
Most of mine will become clear when my children are old enough to write their own columns.
Nonetheless, some missteps are painfully obvious even to the terminally simple.
In the midst of the great (and futile) frog math roundup, it finally became clear, even to the utterly obsessed (that would be me), that it was long past bedtime and the frog math was not to be found.
At this moment, I chose, in my inimitable way, to take a completely misguided stab at humor by turning to my child – my fragile, six-year-old who is still getting her “big-kid” bearings, so to speak – and uttering the words that will undoubtedly loom large in her therapy someday:
“Well, hon’, I guess you’ll just have to fail first grade!”
I comfort myself with the thought that someday she’ll thank me.
One day, when her peers wonder why they pay all that perfectly good money for psychoanalysis, my girl will be spared the suspense; she’ll know why she’s dishing out the cash for a cure. Oh boy, will she know.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a passably good parent some of the time. Or, so she says. She welcomes comments c/o; P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460; or


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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.