I woke up early today with Jack and fed him while listening to Morning Edition on NPR. It was quiet and cloudy, and I noticed my neighbor pulling out of his driveway as Jack sucked down the last few ounces, milk drool covering his chin. I took in some of the last precious few moments of silence before all of our Thanksgiving guests arrived for the week, and I wiped his face with a burp cloth before hoisting him onto my shoulder for our little burp ceremony. He let a huge one rip, the guttural nature of it still slightly shocking to me, then smiled. He spent about five minutes staring at the radio, probably still not quite sure where the voices were coming from.
I wonder if he’ll ever know his Dad as a radio man? It was a job that I always thought would be cool to have when I had kids. They’d get to tell their friends that I was on the radio, and I’d get to show them around the studios. I also planned to milk my child for radio humor as long as I could. Alas, my radio career is on hold, maybe forever. I can’t say that I miss it terribly, but I do miss it. However, Jack and I get to be listeners together now, and some day I’ll play him my last show, the one where he got to “talk” on the radio when he was three months old. How many kids have something like that to take to Show and Tell? I wonder if radio will still be around then? The way that industry is going, you never know. I’m glad I decided to be a dad instead. The future of that is pretty solid.
So there I was, being a dad, burping a kid, listening to the radio with him before the arrival of the Thanksgiving circus. I found myself just staring at his ear as he stared at the radio. I do that a lot. It’s weird how I can be so content just staring at his perfect little ear. I could do it for hours. This time, I did it for seconds before he grabbed a fistful of my beard. Then he grabbed with his other hand. I got him to let go, only to have him rear back and grab even bigger clumps with both of his hands at the same time. He gave me this goofy smile, while yanking back as hard as he could. It hurt like hell. It always does. Jack can be a real prick sometimes.
I’ve pretty much gotten used to his beard grabbing. He’s been doing it pretty much since he’s been born, so I know what I’ve gotten myself into. My favorite is when I’m holding him and he starts to fall one way or another and grabs two handfuls of beard in a desperate act to steady himself. It’s like my skin is getting ripped off. He seems to enjoy inflicting pain on me and even thinks it is hilarious, while I’ve learned to slightly enjoy the pain. It’s some sort of weird form of sadomasochism, I suppose, a fun daily game of Hurt the Daddy. In some weird way, I feel like it’s a way for us to connect, a way for him to distinguish me from everyone else. I grow my beard, he grabs it with all his might. It’s our thing. It also hurts like a motherfucker, but I press on.
Sometimes I really want to shave my beard, but I can’t. I won’t. I’m in it for the long haul. It has taught me patience, which I need now more than ever. People also take me more seriously for some reason. Beards put you a step above your average Joe. Even homeless guys with beards get a little more respect. But the main reason I will continue to grow my beard is for a moment in the distant future.
Now, I’ve experimented with facial hair for quite some time. I even had a trial beard about a year before I grew my current one, but I got sick of it and relented to the razor. However, I’ve been growing my present beard since before Jack was conceived, and I will continue to do so until that glorious moment down the road when he is old enough to talk back to me and thinks he is old enough to question one of my decisions or motives. It is then that I will finally get to say it; “My beard is older than you, Jack, so I don’t want to hear it!” I’ll yell back to him. He’ll then go off to his room to pout, and I’ll go finally shave my beard.