The Perpetual Shave

“Being a great father is like shaving. No matter how good you shaved today, you have to do it again tomorrow.” – Reed Markham

A few days ago, I was having a conversation with my kid. He’s nearly six and he likes to talk. The conversation revolved around appropriate interaction with his little sister, who is nearly two, and who has acquired the ear-nullifying habit of screeching at the top of her little lungs when her brother approaches her without her explicit permission. He adores his baby sister as if she were his favorite Stuffed Guy. As all parents with five year old boys know, the Stuffed Guys are loved, but they are also beat to high hell on a regular basis; squeezed, stomped on, flung through the air, dipped in food, accidentally peed on and then lovingly slept with at the end of a day. Needless to say, the kid’s baby sister protests this kind of enthusiastically brutal affection where the other Stuffed Guys do not. So many conversations are had on a daily basis on how to interact with the baby sister who is a real human being and who cannot be fixed by Mommy’s sewing kit.

The conversation is not worth noting, really. But after we finish the conversation we’ve had a million times before, there is a silence. He draws or fiddles with a book and I look at his face. It is a rich, beautiful, evolving face. At nearly six years old, the face retains its radiant glow of innocence, yet the accumulating years are applying layers of cells around his eyes and inside his brain and just peeking out from that child’s face is something that looks like the seed of a young man. He is growing up.

I have a history with this kid. I have been a stay at home Dad for nearly six years, and four of those years were spent exclusively with him. Nearly two years ago, our daughter came into the world and right around that same time, I began my tenure as a work-at-home Artistic Director for a small but ambitious theatre company. I have been feeling pretty overwhelmed of late, and have found myself thinking that I was much better at being a Good Dad when it was just the two of us. Whether or not that is the truth is something I cannot honestly say, but I can honestly say I have worried about it.

After the conversation about the baby sister settled into that quiet, post talking-to peace, I asked him a question.

Do you remember what it was like to not have a baby sister?

He looked at me. His eyes looked inwards, and then back.

No,” he said simply.

And instantly I was crushed. And to be crushed by your child’s words is an odd sensation. It is the kind of crushing that feels beautiful and sad and irreversible and somehow tied up in the complexity of life-circles and inevitable growth and death and love and everything in between. I was crushed because he no longer has any real memories of that special time when it was just he and I from 9-5 everyday for three and a half years. Those were the wonder years for me. Not easy, to be sure, but filled to the brim with wonder and life like I had never experienced before.

These are the times he is remembering. Now. Remember how I had been thinking that “I used to be better when it was just he and I?” Well it isn’t just he and I anymore, I said to myself, he doesn’t remember the days when I “was better” at this. So I guess it’s time to get better, now. And quick.

This blog is attempt to help me remember amongst the noise of life, what it is like to be a Dad of two beautiful babies during that tiny fraction of a moment that is their childhood; to help me keep my father’s heart at the forefront of what I do in my too-busy life.

It all passes so quickly.