I have been a parent long enough to realize there are at least two sides to every story. In my home, there are usually three different versions, each altered in a way that makes “the other” brothers look guilty.

Unfortunately, the brothers Zich have become experts over the years at throwing the blame for something to someone else’s shoulders. And once in a while, they even toss the blame to someone outside our family circle.

The most vulnerable people out there are my older boys’ teachers. According to Jimmy and Tommy, bad grades only happen when their teachers are being unjust, overbearing or both.

(Ronnie is receiving none of the blame for this situation because he does his homework on time.)

Now that I am part of the educational system, I am not so easily fooled.

When Tommy’s first interim grade report arrived a couple of weeks ago with a big fat C on it in P.E., I couldn’t believe my eyes.

How could my rough-and-tumble eighth-grade BOY receive a C in gym class? How could anyone receive a C in gym class, for that matter?

Unfortunately, I told Ron about the grade while Jimmy was in the room. My oldest son relished the fact that someone else besides him was getting into trouble for their grades.

He showed Tommy no mercy, especially since that lousy grade was in P.E. class.

After running up to his room and pouting for a while, Tommy followed the example his older brother has set for him since elementary school: he blamed the teacher.

“Well, she keeps giving us these written tests,” he began. “We had one when a substitute was there, and nobody did the back side of it.”

According to Tommy, “everybody” bombed the test, and it was going to count for half his grade in P.E.

A less experienced, more naïve version of me would have fallen for his excuse, but I knew I smelled a rat somewhere. It was hard to imagine a fellow teacher doling out Cs to an entire class for an oversight made by a substitute.

(I cannot resist adding here that Ron fell for it hook, line and sinker. He was ready to call the principal and complain about the injustice of it all.)

I decided to take a more direct approach; I sent an E-mail to Tommy’s teacher and asked her what was going on with his P.E. grade.

Guess what? I heard a very different version of why my son’s grade was so low.

I also discovered there had been an extra credit assignment that would have allowed him to bring up his grade.

On top of that, I found out the teacher planned to give a make-up quiz for the one in which so many students completed only one side.

Suddenly, Tommy’s life as an eighth-grader didn’t seem quite as unfair anymore!

And there is no way he will have an excuse for bringing home a C in P.E. class on his progress reports.

Perhaps even more importantly, he knows “I’m onto him” and he had better stay on his toes — in P.E., and his other classes this year. All I had to do was take a couple of minutes to send his teacher a message.

After starting out the school year like this, I can hardly wait to see what his academic grades are.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has been married to a Marine for 19 years and currently lives in Springfield, Va. You may e-mail her at or visit her Web site at

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