The Happy Homemaker: "Origin", "The Secretaries" and "Pierpont's Teacher"

posted Aug 8, 2013, 7:30 PM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Oct 9, 2013, 2:52 AM ]

I inadvertently started a new story series on my blog that began with a rather amusing but improbable imagining of me as a husband and father. So I’ve decided to start posting them here three at a time…

The Origin of “The Happy Homemaker”

I have no desire to be married (or even coupled) and have even less of a desire to be a parent. I would have to share my life to make the first situation work and give it up completely to be good with the second situation. 

Still, I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have a husband and raise a kid together -- just A kid. I'm not interested in pluralization. And neither should he. 

But the only way I can see this working how I want it to is if one of us stays home to raise little Pierpont, age 6, who is a product of one of my husband's previous relationships -- about which I asked very few questions. 

Of course, that previous relationship factors in no way with our current relationship because I'm making this fantasy as idyllic as possible since it's going to be tough enough to raise a kid without the added drama of a baby daddy. 

Because I am a writer and can't seem to hold down one of those "real" jobs for more than a couple of years, I am more than willing to be the stay-at-home dad. I can't imagine I'd be any worse at that than I was as a corporate cog. 

I'm pretty good with money when I want to be and definitely much better than Bradley, who likes to spend. We live in a small house in Long Beach (that's my new living target). Bradley is one those straight-laced types (except where and when he shouldn't be) who thrives far better in a cog setting than I ever could. He commutes to some downtown office. I make additional money as a free-lance writer and self-published author so we're a household of just north of $100K. 

I've named my would-be husband Bradley (even though I know three Bradleys -- one who will probably think he's the inspiration for this Bradley, the other who will be afraid he is an inspiration and the third who will wonder WHY he might be the inspiration).

This Bradley is the sporty type in interest but not necessarily in skill -- which makes him sad sometimes. But we're raising a sporty young son in skill AND interest so they bond over that since Bradley also coaches our son's baseball team. 

To keep Pierpont well-rounded, I've raised him on The Cosby Show and I Love Lucy so he is also developing into quite the TV junkie. Bradley fails to see how a TV junkie can be well-rounded, that but at the very least it's our bond. 

Every morning Pierpont wakes Bradley and I up so we can all eat breakfast together before he has to go to school and Bradley to work. Sports are Bradley's passion, so I tend to ask him more about that than anything going on at the office. He asks me about my writing projects but nothing about TV specifically because he knows I could go on and on -- besides, TV will factor into my answers to his questions about my writing projects. We both pepper Pierpont with questions about school so we know what's going on. 

Bradley and I alternate days with getting Pierpont dressed (he bathes at night) and making breakfast for the three of us as well as preparing Pierpont's lunch -- unless we get lazy and just give him money to buy it at school.

Bradley then walks the 3/4 mile to the train station (it's his version of exercise since we're not gym people) while I drive Pierpont off to school. We only have the need for one car. 

I come back home, shower, dress and catch up on my TV news before working on whatever writing project is in progress. I make sure I'm caught up with Pierpont's school and activity schedules as well as the Brerrence social schedule. As the bills come in, I pay them -- unless I have to defer for whatever reason. 

I run errands, shop for groceries, do laundry, clean the house (because I refuse to hire a maid) and handle Bradley's dry cleaning during the week to open the weekends for quality time with Pierpont and to support his activities. 

I maintain a presence at Pierpont's school so that a) the teachers know they can call me anytime about Pierpont, b) that I will call them or just show up anytime a situation arises regarding Pierpont and c) so Pierpont feels I'm always watching and thinks I could show up at anytime to find him misbehaving or not doing his best work.

I pick up Pierpont after school and take him to whatever activity he's involved in or home to do his school work. We both do our work together at the dining room table. I help him if he has a problem and he inspires me if I get stuck. It's more bonding time for us. 

I prepare dinner after he finishes his school work (or after we return home from his after-school activity) and let him watch TV. 

The three of us try to eat dinner together every night but with Bradley and Pierpont's schedules, that's not always feasible -- which is why we make it a point to have breakfast in the morning. But unless he's working late, Bradley typically arrives home as I'm finishing.

After dinner, I clean up while Bradley and Pierpont catch up on sporting news. Bradley then prepares Pierpont for bed and reads him a story. That's more bonding time for them. We both say our goodnights to Pierpont. Then Bradley and I have our um...bonding time (however it may be). 

Then we go to bed -- unless we're already there.

Of course, not every day and not every night goes that smoothly because life sometimes happens while you're trying to live it. Regardless, Bradley and I try to raise Pierpont with a strong sense of self. We teach him that it's okay to ask questions when you don't understand something or if something doesn't sit well with you. We also encourage him to think for himself and formulate his own opinions. That sometimes backfires on us because it's a lot harder to teach him when to voice those opinions. 

That's often why I am called by his school -- and why he's often sent to his room. He may not be a blood Moss, but he's still a Moss even if by nurturation. 

We also try to provide Pierpont with a sense of family -- given, chosen and extended. He's a beloved part of our circle of single, coupled, childed and childless friends. He goes to sleepovers at other people's houses and Bradley and I host sleepovers. We take him to see his grandmother and great-grandmother on my side who live two hours away. We take annual trips to the east coast to see his grandparents on Bradley's side. His grandfather and other grandmother on my side fly in from Illinois to see him.

It's been hard slowly letting him be separated from us for any period of time -- we started off with a day or two but that one full week with his godparents was killer for both Bradley and me. Pierpont on the other hand had the time of his life. 

I don't know what we're going to do when he goes off to college.

Between this and the actual stories, I made Pierpont an actual adoptee as opposed to the product of a prior relationship because I didn't want to have the added complication of a baby mama.

I also upped Pierpont's age from six to eight.

“Pierpont’s School: The Secretaries” 

"Good morning, ladies -- and Gary," I say with a chuckle as I walk into the front office of Pierpont's elementary school.

"Good morning, Mr. Moss," the four office secretaries -- two middle-aged women, one younger woman and Gary -- respond at the same time.

I place a tray of homemade cookies from a nearby Pavilion's grocery store on the counter. I learned a long time ago that the way to a school's heart is through its secretaries. It's a small price to pay for clearance to just drop in every few weeks to chat with Pierpont's teacher about his schoolwork during one of her breaks when the students are at gym, music class or the library.

Sally, one of the middle-aged women, rises from her desk, smiles and takes the tray back to it. She's my favorite, but I know she keeps track of how many cookies people take throughout the day.

I also like to drop in on Pierpont himself to make sure he's not misbehaving. It makes for a great a self-check on his part because he never knows when I might just show up and catch him acting like he's being raised in a frat house by people who either didn't teach him better or just let their "boys just be boys". My mother never bought into that. She was of the mindset that her boys will be young men. I myself am of the mindset that my boy can be a boy but he will act like he knows how to make better choices than the other boys.

Bradley thinks I should relax a little on this point, but then I remind him that Pierpont's birth father was one of those boys I'm trying to keep Pierpont from becoming. Then I make a joke about how I'm not going to raise anyone else's children.

"We should just get you an employee pass," Michelle, the youngest of the four, jokes as she hands me a visitor's pass to stick on my shirt. "Head on over to the classroom and I'll let Mrs. Gray know you're on your way."

"Thanks, Michelle. Enjoy the cookies," I say with an unnecessarily flirtatious wink as I walk out of the office.

"I'll only have a couple," she replies. "I'm trying to be on a diet."

"What for?" I say over my back with more charm than I even knew I had in me. (I should probably use some of that to keep Bradley around a little longer -- but whatever.)

Michelle giggles. "I like him," she says out loud to herself as she returns to her desk to make the call.

"I like his husband better," Gary, the lone male of the group, retorts.

Sally, Michelle and Delissa look at each other and then over to Gary.

"At least his husband just calls in about their son like other parents instead of coming in," Gary says.

"He brings cookies," Sally retorts. "So I can tolerate the visits."

“Pierpont’s Teacher” 

I walk down the hall of Pierpont's school and pass the gym where a class is in session. I don't look in because I know he isn't in there. I look on the opposite wall at the long line of drawings by what a large sign tells me is the first grade class. I'm not impressed. Pierpont is in third grade now but he did better than this when he was in first grade. I did not. Neither did Bradley. Whatever artistic talent Pierpont was blessed with, however marginal, he must have gotten from his birth parents.

I make the first right after the school's administrative offices and my first immediate left into Room 14.

"Hello, Mrs. Gray," I say to Pierpont's teacher, a woman of a certain young middle age. She seems surprised to see me -- as if she hadn't been warned of my impromptu visit by the office secretaries. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything. Did the office tell you I was on my way down?"

"Hello, Mr. Moss. Yes, they did. It's good to see you again," Mrs. Gray says as she rises to shake my hand. Ordinarily, I would just tell her to call me Terrence, but I feel formality is the order of the day when it comes to discussing my son's education. Bradley is the exact opposite. If he had his way, Pierpont would be calling US by our first names. But I would have NONE of that.

"I won't stay too long. I know I was only here a couple weeks ago and you probably think I'm some spastic freak of a parent, but as I say every time I come here, it's just to make sure that Pierpont stays focused on what he has to do."

Mrs. Gray laughs. "And I tell you every time you come here that I understand. We like parents to actively participate -- some do it more enthusiastically then others, but even that's better than not having them involved at all."

"So how's he doing?" I ask.

Mrs. Gray sits back down at her desk to show me some assignments that she's grading. "Please take a seat, Mr. Moss."

I look around at the sea of child-sized desks. "If it's okay, I'll stand. I'm five-foot-seven. If there's bad news, I don't have that far to fall."

Mrs. Gray laughs again. "Here's my chair. I'll sit on the desk."

Once I'm situated in her chair and she's perched on her desk, Mrs. Gray tells me about how well Pierpont is doing in math. He must have gotten that from Bradley. Math is too conventionally logical for me. She tells me how impressed she is with his reading skills. I tell her that Bradley and I have started having him read his bedtime stories to us. On the nights that Bradley puts Pierpont to bed, he sometimes falls asleep during the story. Depending on his mood, Pierpont will either cuddle up next to Bradley and go to sleep or sneak out of his room and try to catch a few more minutes of anything on television before I catch him, take him back to his room, wake Bradley up and then put them both to bed.

Mrs. Gray tells me that he's spelling well but his handwriting is starting to slack. I've always been great with spelling, so I'd like to think he got that from me --- even if by osmosis. I used to have great handwriting but I've gotten lazier with it as an adult because sometimes I have so many ideas in my head that I have to get them down on paper before my brain files them away somewhere random that will take something else random to access them down the line. Pierpont must be picking up that bad habit. I'll have to reform.

While I've met his art, music and gym teachers, they tend to have less to say about Pierpont than Mrs. Gray because they deal with all the students in the entire school. So unless he's exceptional at any of the three, which he's not, or presents a major problem for them, which he doesn't, then the most they have to tell me is that he's there and he participates.

Pierpont hates to draw and paint, but likes to see the work his classmates produce. He hates learning to play musical instruments, but he likes listening to music and learning about how all the instruments come together to make music. Like his fathers did, he hates gym. Unlike his fathers, we're not sure whether he likes to watch the boys run or the girls run to make gym worthwhile.

Because we can see that he's going to be a worrier, Bradley and I tell him that gym is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety. It's like running around in the backyard, but with more guidelines and restrictions. Somehow he understood that. While he still doesn't look forward to it, he then saw a purpose to it.

Pierpont has a great imagination, which is evident in his creative writing. Mrs. Gray showed me a story he had written that was of concern to her. It was a decent story and she gave him a "B+" for some grammatical issues that she'll address with the class, but there was something about his female characters that suggested to her the lack of a mother figure in his life. She wasn't suggesting as much as offering a general thought -- which is what I want her to do, so it didn't really raise my ire.

I resisted making a joke about Bradley, but told her I would talk to him about it before addressing it with Pierpont. I thanked her for her time and left her to her grading.

I looked at my watch. I thought about stopping by the music room to see Pierpont, but I figured he had already sensed my presence (or some other dark force) in the building and was on his best behavior just in case that dark force was me.

I waved at the office secretaries as I walked by on my way out. Sally raised a cookie to me as a thank you. We both laughed and I walked out the door.