A little while back, I started writing a piece titled “Growing Up My Way”. It’s essentially a summary of examples illustrating the snail-like pace of my emotional maturation and my sometimes less than conventional parenting techniques. Every time I think I’m through, I find more examples that just beg to be shared with you. One such example happened about three weeks ago. It’s now spring and that means certain things in my house. One is that more often than not, come May I’ve spent the past eight months or so growing my belly, hair, and beard. It’s never a look or a statement, I just don’t like to be cold. So it’s about that time of year for me to shed all of the above and get ready for warmer weather…because I also don’t like to be hot. There are certain tell tale signs that indicate this need for a makeover. One being that once 20 or more people have told me that I look like Andrea Bocelli, I know it’s about that time.

That conversation almost always goes the same. It starts with someone asking me if I know who Andrea Bocelli is. I guess because I’m just a bartender and because I look as if I just spent a week vacationing at Ted Kaczynski’s place I couldn’t possibly be intelligent or cultured enough to be familiar with an opera star. Fortunately, I stopped being offended by people assuming that I’m an idiot a long time ago. Once they find that I’m familiar with him, they are relieved and then inform me that I look like him, always thinking that they are the first to ever say that to me. I always give the same response; “yes, I actually get that a lot. He has an excuse to look like this though.” About 5 percent of these people get the joke, laugh, and briefly look surprised that a guy in an apron could be that witty. Another 5 percent get a disgusted look on their face as if I’ve just made an affront to the entire blind community. And the other 90 percent are completely befuddled. Which of us is the dummy now?

It’s also time to slough my follicular topiary when I can no longer convince folks that I am NOT in fact the front man for a Doobie Brothers cover band. Or when my wife looks at me and as gently as she can simply says, “it’s time.”

About three weeks ago, we had that first day that broke 70 degrees. After the winter we just endured, it was more than welcome. The sun was shining, I opened some windows, and it was positively glorious. My wife had just worked the overnight shift at the hospital and was taking a nap. I was getting ready to take my 2-year-old and 3-year-old to the park to enjoy the day and give Mommy some quiet time. First I had to feed them lunch though. We sat together eating lunch and watching Curious George. It was the first time this year that my facial fur and mane was making me uncomfortably warm.

I nonchalantly said to my daughters; “girls, I think it’s about time for Daddy’s spring shave and haircut.” Which of course meant that I was going to call and make an appointment. Without hesitation, my 3-year-old excitedly looked at me and asked, “can we do it?” I was immediately reminded of her cosmetological prowess from when she took a pair of scissors to her little sister’s hair a few months ago leaving her with one of the most prolific mullets I’ve ever seen. My poor 2-year-old now looks like she could have been the fifth member of the Runaways.

So of course, I smiled and replied; “I don’t think that would be a good idea sweetheart.” Then in unison, as if rehearsed, this pair of devious cherubs looked at me with wide eyes and ear to ear smiles and said; “pleeeeeeeease?” I looked at them and melted a bit as I often do. I thought about it for a brief moment, smiled back and said; “Ya know what, why not.” I went to the other room and retrieved my clippers and attachments. They were a rare impulse buy for myself at WalMart a few years ago and have proven to be the best $10 I’ve ever spent.

I returned with my weaponry, started towards the guest bathroom and said; “come on girls, let’s do this.” They looked at each other and then at me with complete befuddlement as if to say; “holy crap! We were just bluffing.” The three of us went into the bathroom, I set them up on the toilet and a stool and let them watch me remove my beard which had grown since October. They thought it was the coolest thing ever. Once the face was finished, I looked at them and asked “ok, who’s first?” They smiled with excitement as I handed the clippers (which now had the thickest guard on) to my 3-year-old and explained how to use them. She gently began removing massive clumps of salt and pepper hair from my head. After a few minutes of sheer entertainment (no pun intended), she relinquished the clippers to her little sister to take over. For the next half hour, they took turns grooming their goof ball father and never stopped laughing hysterically throughout the entire project.

I honestly don’t know that I’ve ever witnessed any two children having more fun or laughing harder. All the while all I could think was that this was so worth it. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? They butcher me and I go back and fix it with a shorter guard? At that point the memory was already created. Short of adding finger paints, a water slide, and a litter of golden retriever puppies to the mix, no two toddlers have ever had more fun.

There were two things I didn’t take into account before this project. The first is that my incredibly tolerant bride had gone to sleep in the other room with a husband who looked a bit like Kenny Rogers. Now she was waking up to a husband who looked like he was about to walk the Green Mile. I had failed to run this by committee but once she saw the joy on our daughters’ faces all was forgiven. The second point I failed to account for was how pissed off my 10-year-old would be when she got home from school that she didn’t get to participate. She soon forgave me as well though and laughed at my new look.

When the project was finished, my bathroom floor looked like someone had pushed a panda into a wood chipper. And these goofy sisters had just as much fun scooping up Daddy fur like it was piles of leaves and putting it in a trash bag. For what it’s worth to those of you quick to judge, this project was accompanied by a lesson on safety about clippers and scissors and how they are never to be used without Mommy or Daddy’s permission and guidance. Maybe my behavior was childish and even a little reckless. Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea nor did it conform to the arsenal of books written by “experts” on how properly to raise your children. But if I properly achieved my goal, then 40 years from now my girls will be sitting down together with children of their own and start a story with; “do you remember the time Dad let us……” If the event is remembered with fondness and everyone in that room is smiling as they hear the story, well….. then my work here is done.

Thanks for playing along. Until next week, Syd Nichols
Share your thoughts, judgements, and parental advice with me sydnichols@yahoo.com