The Happy Homemaker: "Set the Tone" and "Back to School Night"

posted Feb 28, 2014, 5:11 PM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Feb 28, 2014, 5:11 PM ]

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 (or in this case, two) at a time…

#22 – “Set the Tone”

Pierpont has only been in fourth grade for a WEEK (or so) and I’ve already gotten called into his Principal’s office. After last school year’s “faggot” incident, these people are going to really start questioning mine and Bradley’s parenting skills.

Though I usually drop in randomly for a visit to Pierpont’s teacher to track his progress and make sure he’s behaving even when he doesn’t know I’m around, I’ve never had to do it so early in the school year. I usually allow about three to four weeks for him and the teacher to get used to each other. This year, since Pierpont is getting older, I thought about easing up on that a bit, but apparently I cannot.

“Welcome back, Mr. Moss,” Sally, the clear secretarial lifer, said to me as I walked into the office.

“And the same to you,” I replied as I looked around and paused. “Someone’s missing.”

“Delissa,” Sally said. “Budget cuts.”

“Apparently. Because Bradley and I were sent a laundry list of school supplies for Pierpont plus an added request to donate additional supplies for those families who couldn’t afford them.”

“Mr. Collins just sent me an instant message that he will see you now, Mr. Moss,” Michelle, the younger of the two remaining secretaries, said to me from her desk. I miss the days of buzzers.

“Thanks, Michelle,” I replied. I waved goodbye to Gary, the lone male secretary, and walked into the unfortunately now-familiar territory of Mr. Collin’s office.

As soon as I saw Pierpont, I put on my “stern parent” face by raising an eyebrow. It’s my signal to him that it’s time to be serious – and it gives Mr. Collins the impression that I’m an involved, engaged and responsible parent.

“Happy new school year,” I said to Mr. Collins, reaching out for a handshake.

Mr. Collins returned the handshake. “Thank you for coming in, Mr. Moss. Please sit down.”

“Thank you for inviting me,” I joked to break the tension as I sat down, but Mr. Collins was not amused.

“Mr. Moss, I called you in because Pierpont was in a physical scuffle this morning.”

“What happened?”

“What we’ve gathered from witnesses is that Pierpont approached a classmate and punched him in the stomach.”

I looked over at Pierpont. “Why?”

“Daddy told me to.”

“What do you mean, ‘Daddy told you to?’”

Pierpont shrugged. “Daddy told me to.”

“That’s what he kept telling us,” Mr. Collins said. “We were hoping having you here would lead us closer to something resembling the truth.”

“I’m not sure this is entirely far from the truth,” I replied. “So let me talk to his other father. In the meantime, and I suppose the rules dictate he be sent home with me or taken into police custody or sent directly to juvie, but can he just go back to class with the guarantee that this will be the last time you see him in this office this school year or I’ll personally escort him to Guantanamo?”

“Fair enough,” Mr. Collins answered.

“Pierpont, I’ll pick you up after school. The rest of your day had better be incident-free until then.”

“Ok, dad.”

“Now go back to class,” I told him, kissing my hand and placing it on the top of his head.

I watched Pierpont leave and then turned around to shake Mr. Collin’s hand. “At least we got this out of the way early. Same time, next year?”

********************************************

I walked into Bradley’s office with a purpose and approached the receptionist at the desk. She wasn’t their regular receptionist, but somehow looked familiar, though I didn’t know why. “Terrence Moss for Bradley Hollinger,” I said to her.

“Is he expecting you?”

“I’m his husband. He should always be expecting me,” I said, almost cheekily.

The receptionist picked up the phone. “Bradley, there’s a Terrence Moss here to see you.”

“Thanks, Andrine. Send him on in.”

Andrine hung up the phone and smiled at me. “Bradley will see you now. I assume you know where his office is.”

“I do. Thank you,” I replied as I walked around the reception desk toward Bradley’s office in the back. I have to remind myself to remember where I know Andrine from.

I opened the door to Bradley’s office and walked in with the same purpose I had when I walked into the lobby a few minutes earlier. “I just came from the principal’s office of Pierpont’s school,” I said.

Bradley laughed. “Already? What did you do?”

Unamused, I raised a “you have some ‘splainin’ to do” eyebrow.

“What did Pierpont already do?”

“You tell me.”

“Uh oh. What did I already do?”

“Exactly.”

“What happened?”

“Pierpont punched a classmate in the stomach. He says you told him to do so. The school didn’t believe him, which is why they called me in. I told Mr. Collins it’s probably not that far from the truth, but that I’d talk to you and find out how ‘not far’ from it his story really is.”

Bradley stared at me for a moment, as if trying to decide how best to respond. “It’s actually quite...close...to the truth.”

“How close?”

“Like...truth close.”

“Why would you tell him to do that?”

Bradley leaned forward in his chair. “I don’t know what people had been feeding their kids over the summer versus what we were feeding ours, but when I dropped him off on his first day it seemed as if he was suddenly trending smaller in comparison to the other kids than he was this time last year.”

“And?”

“And I didn’t want him to be intimidated by any of them so I put together a plan.”

“And what was this plan?”

“I told him to make friends with a bigger kid who looked like they could be trouble and strike up a deal with them to let him punch them in the stomach in front of a bunch of other classmates – which is why you’ve been making a lot of chicken lately.”

“What does chicken have to do with it?”

“The kid likes chicken sandwiches.”

“I don’t understand.”

“For a week’s worth of chicken sandwiches to trade at lunch, the big kid let Pierpont punch him in the stomach at recess.”

“Why?”

“So that the other kids would think Pierpont is some tough kid and leave him alone.”

“And you weren’t worried about him getting in trouble?”

“No, because he wasn’t supposed to do it while a teacher was watching.”

 

#23 – “Back to School Night” 

A few nights ago, Bradley and I went to the twice-delayed (for whatever reason that I didn’t push to find out) Back to School night at Pierpont’s school. Attending these events used to be a bit of a joke for me since I was pretty much at his school on a weekly basis meeting with one teacher or another to actively monitor Pierpont’s academic performance, but this year I’ve tried to ease up a bit on the visits now that Pierpont was nine, in fourth grade and becoming a bit embarrassed by them.

After having already met his primary teacher (I was allowed at least that), I was very excited to meet his secondaries for music, art, theater and physical education.

The structure of the evening was a general assembly with the Principal, Mr. Collins. Bradley and I had a minor laugh over the fact that Mr. Collins was so familiar with us that he made it a point to come over and say hello. Collins even joked about how happy he was to report that he hadn’t seen Pierpont in his office in the month since he last called us in for a meeting about him.

After the general assembly, we were broken up by classroom to hear from, ask questions to and meet with the primary teachers. After that, all the secondaries were available for parents to roam in and out of their rooms to hear from, ask questions to and meet with. This part of the evening was more or less optional, so many parents left while the more dedicated ones such as Bradley and me actually took the time to meet with them.

Or at least tried to. A lot of the remaining parents crammed into the art room for her presentation because all the kids’ projects were displayed and they all wanted to see what their kids have been working on since the beginning of the school year. The theater teacher also drew a bit of a crowd by incorporating the parents into the acting exercises she was teaching the kids.

A lot of parents, including us, left their kids with the physical education teacher after his session – presumably to tire them out before bed since he had engaged them in a game of freeze tag. I never liked Phys Ed as a kid, but Pierpont loves it. And given the Phys Ed teacher’s (ironically named Jim) approach, I see why: instead of a focus on baseball, football, soccer and basketball, the focus is on strength training and cardio. Sure, there’s kickball, dodgeball (thank God I send my kid to a school in a district run by an Administration only one-third full of idiots) and the wretched fitness test, but Jim (the only teacher I call by his first name – at his insistence) clearly sees Phys Ed as more than just gym class. In fact, he brings his wife in twice a month to talk openly and field questions about the more delicate developmental situations – to a certain point. At that point, they reach out to the parents for guidance from them about how they’d best like the matter handled.

I can’t wait for our discussion with Pierpont.

Very few people made it down to the music room though – perhaps due to its unfortunate location at the very end of a long hall well beyond the heavy traffic area. Additionally, Mr. Greeley, fresh out of music school with a teaching certification, didn’t have anything to display or music exercises he could reasonably expect the parents to participate in or the students to participate in with their parents in the room. So all he could really think of doing was talking about what he was teaching them – which was not as exciting.

Because I felt bad for Greeley (and because he was adorable in his bright-eyed enthusiasm), I handed Bradley my jacket and said, “’Old Time Rock and Roll’ in E-Flat.”

Greeley laughed and said, “Are you serious?”

“I certainly am. And I have no idea what E-flat sounds like, but it doesn’t matter because I tend to hit every note but the right one anyway.”

So he played and I sang, which piqued the curiosity of several parents. I didn’t pack the place out but by the time I got to that Hawaiian guy’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, most of those who did make their way down were singing along.

After a round of applause, the customary bowing and even a few dollars in tips that I in turn gave to Greeley, he asked if I’d be willing to do it again for Back to School Night in February.

I agreed, but told him that we should take it to the hallways. I’d sit on top of the piano and sing, he could play and then we’d have a spotlight strategically placed at the end of the hallway for my closing number – my version of the theme song to It’s a Living.


- with special contribution from Alison Smith.