Most of my father-son memories are documented in some way using the camera from my iPhone. It takes pretty good shots, and I'll admit it, I have a bit of a social media addiction. This moment was different, though. Sometimes we waste too much time and we diminish the significance of events in our lives taking pictures to load onto Facebook or Instagram, posing for perfect shots at the risk of building a less-than-authentic impression of a fleeting moment. It seems these days we've come to fear making undocumented memories. I'm learning that when we risk it, those moments entrusted only to our brains, filed away only in our minds, recounted with people we love or recalled privately in a moment of longing or nostalgia... those moments are the best. This moment with my son was different. In fact, I don't even remember where my phone was at the time. For a few minutes, I just lived life doing what countless dads have done with their teenagers throughout time. I taught my son to shave.
We've developed a routine in our family that involves my wife dropping our teenager off for weightlifting and freshman football. I then, in turn, pick him up later in the evening. Some of our best and worst conversations are spent dropping off and picking up. Although I maintain the pick-up is most challenging.
Teenagers are testy, hungry, sassy, and a little bit awesome, sometimes even a lot awesome. Occasionally they say dumb things. And sometimes they do worse things. But as parents we love them through it all. Recently I picked my son up from football and on our way home we had a difficult conversation. Parents and kids have those now and then, but parents and teens have them a lot more often. Lately, I've noticed this inner wrestling between my son the kid, and my son the teen. It's a natural struggle everyone goes through, and I know I'm witnessing life as it's meant to be. He's literally undergoing a transition. He's trying to figure out who he is, who he wants to be and who he's intended to be on this journey to being a man.
On that same evening, I pulled into the drive and as we talked some more before going into the house -- just me and him. I noticed as he turned away from me the setting sun touched his face. Shadows of the kid I know and love... and of course, then the hair on his face. Wait. What? The hair. On his face. I looked again, and noticed that what had been peach fuzz had been replaced with facial man-hair, albeit still somewhat fine, not quite full-on rugged bristles -- but facial hair. We went about the rest of our evening. My son went to bed. I thought about these things. Two nights passed. I couldn't get it out of my mind. I tried to recall when I started shaving, and determined it must not have been significant. Still another night passed and my wife dropped my son off at football again.
Sometimes you have to be intentional about making significant moments. There's no posed, iPhone-captured picture that can make a moment significant. Significance comes both naturally and intentionally, and we know it when we feel it. I drove to the store and picked up everything I needed. He'd need his own shaving cream, a decent razor, among other things. What happened next was more spontaneous than planned and yes, a little intentional. I unpacked my shopping bags and placed them in his bathroom on his sink alongside his other teenage products and waited for football to end and then for him to notice.
Football ended. The teenager ate. The teenager showered. "Dad, did you get me shaving stuff?"
"Do you want me to shave?"...
"Not necessarily, but when you're ready you can shave. I've just noticed you're getting to a point you may need to, so it's there when you need it. When you're ready."
The teenager video-gamed. The teenager ate some more. Mom went to bed. The teenager says, "I think I'm ready to shave."
Here are six life lessons I shared with my son as I taught him to shave:
Be prepared. Go ahead and get it all together. There's nothing worse than getting started and realizing you don't have everything you need. Preparation makes a difference.
Ear to Mouth. Start from your ear, and work your way to your mouth. Remember it this way, listen first, then speak. Ear to mouth.
Relax. Everything's harder when we try too hard, and trying too hard takes the fun out of something. Enjoy the peacefulness. Relax and maintain control.
Don't Rush It. We make more mistakes when we try to rush things. We miss out on things. We forget things. Slow down and you'll avoid many mistakes or mishaps.
We bleed. Sometimes we bleed, and sometimes we don't, but eventually we all bleed and it's all in how you handle it. Just stop the bleeding and move on.
Clean up the mess. Wash your face. Wash the sink. When you make a mess, do your best to clean it up, wash it down the drain and forget about it. You'll get messy, but life is full of chances, and you can always be clean again.
I didn't even reach for my iPhone or my camera that night, but I'll never forget those moments, talking. We didn't laugh, although both of us are prone to goofiness at times. This was a moment of significance.
It was late and time for bed. "I guess I'm growing up, huh Dad?"
"To be sure, you are, son. Just remember, that shaving doesn't make you a man. Having respect for yourself, and for others and choosing to do the right thing is what makes you a man. I love you. Goodnight."
This article was originally posted here on The Good Men Project.