For 10 years, I’ve known one thing for sure. My son, Jackson, is going to be bald someday.
It’s not my fault. I’m not bald. I’m not going bald. Any geneticist or high school biology student worth their weight in hair clippings will tell you; it’s all dependent on the mother’s father. And unfortunately for Jackson, my wife’s dad has been sporting the Friar Tuck look since his early 30s.
Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are bald. And they are all in better shape and better looking than I am. I know that bald is much cooler these days than it was back when I was Jackson’s age. Jack Nicholson? Bruce Willis? C’mon, no one is cooler than those guys. Jackson, I know, will be a very cool bald guy.
But for now, for now he has his hair, and he likes the skateboarder/surfer look. And – for now – he has the perfect hair for it. It drapes down over his forehead and sweeps naturally to his left, eclipsing only his left eye and leaving his right eye open for the important stuff. Really important stuff, like seeing how cool he looks in the mirror.
He looks good with long hair. And knowing what I know about his chances of keeping that hair, I would love nothing more than to let him grow it to whatever length suits him. But nothing about being a dad is ever that easy.
His mother and I have noticed that as the hair gets longer, the attitude looms larger. The good manners grow shorter. And ultimately, our patience is worn much too thin. So the threats begin. “If you don’t change that attitude, we’re going to have to shave that hair off.”
“No! Please!” he’ll plead, “I’m sorry. I’ll do better.”
And he does do better – for about 3 hours.
The real problem is that what he can occasionally lack in manners, he completely makes up for in other areas. He’s a straight “A” student. He’s a disciplined blackbelt in Taekwondo. He’s a genuinely caring soul, consistently amazing me with his uncanny awareness of the trials others face and his persistent desire to help make things better for anyone he can. He’s mature beyond his years.
But that hair. Sometimes I think the wriggling asps of Medusa would be less troubling. It’s as if the ability to hide one eye behind longer locks gives him immunity from his parents and the ultimate power to rule his world.
In short, it makes him act like a teenager. And I – well, I’m just not ready for a teenager. I need the few extra years I still have to prepare. Every single day of it.
So, there I am caught in the middle of the great quandary that is fatherhood. Do I back off and give in, knowing that with every inch of hair immeasurable joy grows in the heart of my 10-year-old, or do I bring on the clippers in an effort to ensure a well-groomed attitude for his many years ahead?
There I was, grappling and grappling. Does the length of his hair really have anything to do with his attitude – or with anything for that matter? But if he wins this battle, will he expect to win every battle? Could this be the first domino to fall? But wait, if a straight-A student can’t have long hair, who can? Maybe I could just sit this one out – let mom make the call. How about some divine intervention or something?
And that’s when it happened. Baseball season.
God bless you, Abner Doubleday!
The email from the baseball coach said that this year, baseball season was starting early. Practice would begin tomorrow.
And there it was. No one can see a pitch coming with one eye tucked behind a patch of flowing follicles. Even Jackson admitted that his hat wouldn’t stay on his head with all of that hair. I was off the hook.
I had gone from the parental equivalent of staring down a Nolan Ryan fastball to playing softball at the family reunion. We were headed to the barber.
The crisis may have been averted, but I knew the hard part wasn’t over. On the way to our haircut, we talked about a lot of things, including exactly how long hair can be and still fit under a baseball hat. Not surprisingly, Jackson has some interesting theories on that topic which I’m pretty sure would not align with the general principles of mass, volume, physics, or space. Regardless, I listened and listened as he veiled his pleas to keep his hair as long as possible.
As we pulled into the parking space, I said, “Look, we need to get your hair cut for baseball. In all honesty, your mom and I thought you needed your hair cut for another reason. Can you tell me what that reason might have been?”
“Because I wasn’t being respectful,” he said. “I wasn’t showing you that I can handle having long hair.”
“That’s right,” I said. “Your mom and I have a job to do. We have to raise you the best that we can, to be the best possible person you can be. And so far, we are so incredibly proud of what a great young man you have become – a blackbelt, straight A’s, a genuinely caring kid. We see it in you every day. And you know what we want more than anything else? We want the world to know what a great person you are. But the world doesn’t want to get to know a long-haired kid with an attitude. The world has plenty of those. And lately, the longer your hair has gotten, the bigger your attitude has grown. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Yes,” he mumbled softly.
“So you know what I want you to do? I want you to go in and get your hair cut. And I want you to prove to me that you can grow it back without growing back the attitude. And you know what I know? I know you can do it. Because you’ve already shown me that you can do anything.”
“I know, Dad.”
And as we got out of the car, “Um, Dad, can we go to Krispy Kreme after our haircut?”
“Sure. We’ll try. Depends on how long it takes to cut all that hair off,” I said as I smiled at him and reached out to tousle his hair.
Someday Jackson will look into the mirror. And as the light of the vanity reflects off the top of his head, I’m sure a thought or two of the hairstyle that once was will cross his mind. But in the end, I hope he will spend far less time worrying about how he looks on the outside and far more hours focused on the man he must always strive to be on the inside.
So, watch out Jack Nicholson and Bruce Willis, the coolest bald guy alive is yet to come.
Image credit: Tim Pierce
Jim Denny is the winner of numerous awards for things like writing, communications planning and website development. He has managed multi-million-dollar marketing budgets for some of the largest companies in the Financial Services industry in his nearly 20 years in communications and marketing.
None of which really impresses his 10-year-old son, Jackson.
In his 10 years as a father, Jim has found that little boys are more impressed by how far you can throw a football, how fast you can run and how loud you can burp. Despite his own deficiencies in all of those areas, Jim hopes to leave a lasting impression on Jackson by being the best dad he can be.