Experiment in growing facial hair

Published 12:01 am Sunday, December 2, 2018

Our son James turned 2 last week, an occasion that once again proved a truism that was shared with me when our first child, Anna, was born — they grow up fast, so don’t blink or you’ll miss something.

James has been extremely communicative since he was just old enough to catch someone’s attention with a hand and motion for something.

A sly smile or disappointing frown early on led the adults around him to figure out what he was after. Later as words came, he began to depend more on vocals than hand motions and frowns.

But lately the strings of words — and sentences — are coming at an increasing pace as his understanding of and fascination with the world around him increases.

In one of those weird twists of parenting fate, my face got wrapped up into his charming requests a couple of weeks ago.

Honestly, I don’t remember how it began. I think he’d become interested in a man he saw out in public with a beard. He asked what was on the guy’s face, and his mom told him, “That man has a beard.”

The beard talk continued for a few weeks and ultimately triggered in his rapidly developing mind, “Daddy, beard?”

At first our answer was, “No, Daddy doesn’t have a beard.”

After a couple of rounds of that, the question was answered differently, “Do you want Daddy to grow a beard?”

A big smile and a head shake later, and we knew what he sought. No worries, I thought. He’ll forget soon enough.

It was more of wish really because I’d been shaving almost daily for the last 30-plus years. I wasn’t about to stop now.

He’ll forget, I reassured myself.

He didn’t.

Admittedly, his memory could have been helped by his older sister’s insistence that Daddy not grow a beard to avoid being “scary.”

The persistent discussion ultimately led to the decision that during a Thanksgiving-week family trip, I’d simply not shave for a few days and satisfy James’ young curiosity.

A few days into the experiment, Anna joined the beard bandwagon after pronouncing, “It’s not scary. I like it.”

Clearly, I was losing the facial hair tug-of-war.

The beard was filling in fairly well — a concern since the top of my head is hairless — and I settled into the idea that the beard could stay a while.

“Who knows,” I secretly told myself. “I might like it.”

Just when the bearded big head was setting in, my wife Julie pulled me back down to earth.

“What do you think?” I asked one night after we’d put both children to bed.

“It’s a lot more gray than I thought it would be,” she said.

Ouch.

She was correct, as usual, however. I shrugged off the dose of reality. The children seem to like the brief change of my face, and I can live with it a bit longer, too.

Truth is, I’m a sucker. I’d do just about anything to make one of them crack a smile or offer up a deep belly laugh.

I’m almost two weeks into the experiment and have decided to let it go a bit longer. I’m reserving the right to quickly get rid of it if it starts truly bothering me.

Truthfully, I’ve enjoyed having the extra 5 minutes each morning that not shaving has provided.

The comments from people who first see the change in my appearance are pretty funny.

The typical, “Did you lose your razor?” quip is pretty common.

One gentleman suggested he’d be happy to pay for a good shave when I “got it out of my system.”

I chuckled at the thought, and I may yet take the man up on it.

But for now, I’m resigned to let it grow and try to spend the 5 minutes I save focusing on the children and working hard not to blink and miss something.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.