Fatherhood Journey: Father and son bond through haircuts (and burritos)

Published: 3/21/2017 4:00:41 PM

“Your hair is getting too long.” I remember those words, delivered more with shame than care, when I was a kid. Parents, teachers and coaches alike – back in the 1970s – found it both duty and right to ensure that boys’ hair remained tightly cropped.

Perhaps they were just defending the status quo — a post war 1950s version of American culture — ensuring that kids from respectable families and communities did not venture down the path of longhaired, counter-culture types.

Nonetheless, I clung to my medium to slightly long hair style — like most of my peers — throughout my school years and college, venturing for a few tumultuous years in my late 20s to a ponytail of respectable length, before shaving my head bald.

Since that decisive moment, I have been a fan of the good old, fashioned buzz cut (an 1/8 to ¼ inch in length) the preferred look of my father’s era.

My reasons are pragmatic, mostly. It’s very easy to manage — I’m in and out of the barber chair in under 10-minutes (and for a fraction of what my wife, Lori, pays for a hair styling, although her hair is lovely), only a drop of shampoo is required for each washing, and I never have bed or hat head.

My son, Adam, and daughter, Zoe, have only seen me with short hair — and occasionally a clean, shaven head. Not surprisingly, while I fully support Adam’s hair choices, and at age 7 he certainly has a strong opinion on the matter, he generally prefers to join me for a buzz cut, except when he would rather not.

So, wanting to avoid the hair battles of my childhood, I add incentive to our outings with lunch – buzz and burritos, and in seasonable weather – bike, buzz and burritos.

And though we relish our hair outings, we both lean toward a DIY approach to life, often musing about owning gear for do-it-yourself hair trimming.

So, on a recent trip to a local big box store where we trolled the isles for Plaster of Paris and petroleum jelly (materials for Adam’s upcoming school science fair project), our eyes locked on a spectacle of great desire.

The words, “VIRTUALLY INDESTRUCTIBLE HAIRCUT TRIMMER,” and “For your clipping and trimming needs” boldly appeared on the bright black and yellow package, along with an image of a man giving himself a buzz cut.

Adam’s eyes (and mine) instantly registered impulse buy.

We quickly justified the purchase, reveling at the 15-piece kit, lifetime warranty and industrial power cord. The rigorous product testing (documented by online videos) sealed the deal.

Never missing a teachable moment, I coached Adam through some quick calculations and he soon realized the cost of the clippers was less than two barbershop visits, such a deal!

Arriving home, we immediately set up shop in the kitchen. Fresh in my mind was Lori’s voice of disapproval, as she is still haunted by the haircut — that went badly – which she received from her father as a child. So, I decided we should start by having Adam cut my hair. He eagerly complied.

I had seriously underestimated the pure joy this activity would offer Adam, and me. After a few successful swipes through my hair with the clippers, Adam gleefully cried, “We’re professionals!” Moments later, welling with a sense of pride at his craftsmanship, he proclaimed, “ This is a new skill!”

About the time Adam had my head looking quite — in process, Zoe and Lori arrived home, stunned by the kitchen scene. Adam grinned widely for his audience. We wrapped up and took a lunch break before the next customer.

To my surprise, Adam insisted on buzzing his own head, while I held a mirror. It was slow going, but his sense of determination was formidable.

The whole affair was a smashing success, until the very end. As I cleaned up his neck line, tears of protest erupted as he screamed, “That hurts!”

It turns out the cutting edge of the clippers gets hot after cropping a full head of hair. Who knew?

Lori glared with a look of “I told you so!”

After a few hugs and agreeing that next time we should let the clippers cool before finishing touches, we were ready for those product-testing videos.

After watching a pair of the clippers survive being run over by a truck, dropped three stories onto concrete, and whacked across the infield with an aluminum bat, we were even more confident our purchase would provide a lifetime of father-son haircut bonding.

And, following our next buzz cuts we will perfect our do-it-yourself burritos!

John Engel of Florence can be reached through his website http://www.fatherhoodjourney.com.

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