Shaving My Son’s Head Is More Bonding Than Beautifying
Disclosure: Wahl sent me a cordless Lithium Ion Clipper. This isn’t a review, and I won’t tell you what it can and can’t do. But I hope you enjoy this story nonetheless.
“Okay dad, let’s go shave our heads,” my son said to me as I’m slumped down in a chair, staring at my phone. He tugged at my arm and I looked up at the shaggy four year old in front of me. It was definitely time once the hair goes over his ears. I like to think that if I get the hair off and above his ears, it’ll mean he’ll listen better to me.
That’s just a joke, but it’s funny; when I shave my son’s head, we have a moment together and I feel like he really is paying attention. It’s our bonding. Some men fish with their kids, some play baseball. I shave my son’s head.
When my son was ready for his first haircut, my wife and I went in our obvious directions: she wanted to go to some “cute” place nearby. It had a hand-painted rainbow on the wall. It had beheaded action figures for him to play with while the barber would tell him how much she’s reminded of her own grandchildren.
I, on the other hand, wanted to use my old Wahl clippers and give him the best cut money couldn’t buy.
In college, I shaved my own head in the small closet-converted-to-bathroom of my friend’s house. There was hardly enough room to hold up a mirror and look at the back of your head in another mirror. The buzzing of the clippers on my scalp was like the tiniest of massages. It was a little slice of “me-time”.
Sometime after getting married, I bought a cheap set of clippers and I taught my wife how to get the spots I wasn’t able to see and reach at the same time. Also, a good partner in crime like that can be bribed to trim up and shave back hair. Back hair is, and should be, a family affair.
When we had our son, I thought it was a given that I’d use my clippers to trim up and shave his head…just like daddy. But, my wife preferred the barber for awhile. A couple of years, actually. It was fine – who’s going to fight about that sort of thing? So, my son watched me shave my head until he was able to ask for it himself.
And, with the go-ahead from mom, I started shaving my son’s head. I immediately loved it. It wasn’t like I was doing anything complicated. “Nothing fancy: number 3, all around,” I’d tell my wife. And running my hands through my son’s hair, feeling it come off of his head – that little head in front of me – it’s powerful. We’d stand in the shower and the hair would stick to the bottoms of our feet that were wet with the morning’s water still on the shower floor.
I don’t know if Wahl’s marketing department’s spidey senses were just that in-tune with me, but I got an e-mail from Wahl asking if I’d try their Lithium Ion cordless clippers. Of course I would.
When the box arrived, my son was already marching toward the bathroom. “Two things, kiddo,” I said. “First, I’ve got to charge the battery. Second, we’re not shaving our heads in the bathroom.”
So, I plugged the clippers in and sank into my recliner. An hour later, my son’s impatience was palpable. “Okay dad, let’s go shave our heads,” the shaggy kid said, tugging at my arm.
I told him to go meet me in the backyard. I grabbed the Wahl kit and walked outside. I unzipped the pouch, found the “No. 3” attachment for the clippers and told my son to pick a chair.
As I shaved his head, we got to feel the sun on our faces and the breeze on our backs. The same breeze, unfortunately, was quick to carry off my son’s hair, which collected on the border of our lawn and made it look like an animal lost his winter coat. My son thought it was funny to watch tumbleweeds of his hair roll away.
Shaving his head is easy. Nothing fancy: number 3, all around. After I do that, I take off the attachment and do a little detail on the sideburns and neckline. And just like that, he’s shorn.
And then my son looks up. “Can I shave your head, daddy?”
Without hesitation, I answer: “sure. You know how?” I ask him this, not because I think there’s a real answer, but because I know he’ll say “yes” and it’ll make him feel special.
In the past, I’d let him hold the clippers – even put them up to the side of my face so he could put a dent in my beard stubble. But juggling the clippers in the bathroom was tough work…the cord was just too short, so standing in the shower, the cord would be knocking over stuff on our counter as he swung it wildly, drunk with power.
Out here in the backyard, there’s nothing to knock over. There’s no cord, no song and dance to get it to reach the back of your neck. He hops down from the chair and I sit. He turns the clippers on and the initial kick jolts his hand. He braces with his other hand until he’s used to the feeling. And then, he’s off to the races.
He’s not gentle. The prongs on the front of the attachment hit me in what I imagine is the brain stem every time he goes from my neckline to the top of my head. I try not to let on that I’m in pain. “Easy,” I tell him. “You want to go kind of slow so it gets all the hair.” Slower hurts a little less.
“All over, don’t forget the front,” I tell him. I can see that he’s mimicking my movements – he has the clippers in one hand and is holding my head in his other. This moment isn’t lost on me; I feel like when I had shaved his head, he really picked up on how I did it, the nuances of my motions and the placement of that other hand. He’s still a kid though, so every now and then, it goes from barbershop to butchershop and I have to remind him not to chop at me. “Easy…” I keep telling him. “Go smooth, take your time.”
In time, he finishes. I ask, “can I clean it all up, buddy?” He hands me the clippers and I run them over my head in straight lines to even out anything he might have missed. But I don’t hear much hair getting buzzed on this pass-through. He did a good job.
When it’s all over, he’s proud of the work he did. He runs his hand through my hair, like I do to his. We hug, I thank him, and his chest is puffed out. He feels like a man. For a moment, we’re equals: I shaved his head, he shaved mine.
It was the best cut that money couldn’t buy.