On Finding Swagger.

I cannot communicate in barber language.

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to style Noah’s hair differently for pretty much his whole life. His hair refuses to do anything except exactly what it does. Which is to hang. In a straight line. No part. No body. No nothing. I’ve felt as if he was years too old for his haircut for quite a while now.

IMG_1546I’ve begged the barber to “give” him a part, or cut it closer, or anything. So the barber would cut his hair as if it’s going to part, and he’d part it for me while it was wet, and Noah will look like the perfect 1950’s gentleman. But then as soon as it dries, it hangs straight again – except with newly unimproved crookedly cut bangs.

I’ve fought with his hair. I’ve bargained with his hair. I’ve tried everything.

Finally I decided to browse the internet until I found a totally new ‘do. Something leaving no amount of bangs to fall straight. I pulled up the Google. And the Pinterest. And made the mistake of browsing with Noah.

Naturally, he liked none of them. None were good enough for him.

After my eyes blurred together from all the kid pictures, I found one that I liked. I begged him to like it.

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“It’s too messy.”

“Okay well how about this cut but fixed less messy.”

“Okay we can try it. BUT NO MOHAWKS.”

I wasn’t sure why this qualification had to be made, but whatev. No Mohawks it is.

I really didn’t want to pull up Pinterest for our male barber who still doesn’t take credit cards and has an old fashioned glass bottle coca-cola machine in his shop. He even has a shoe stand with what seems to be a full-time shoe shiner (who is usually taking a nap when we’re in there.) These people do not know about Pinterest. And I didn’t want to be laughed at.

But I took Noah in anyway, rather pensively. And the stars shone upon me. There was a woman working that morning that I’d never seen before, and we were assigned to her. Surely she’d heard of the internet.

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I told her it was time to try something completely different. I pulled up the picture and told her “this – but less messy. And a little tighter on the sides.”

She worked on him for a good 45 minutes – this was significantly longer than a usual snappy trim. I listened nearby as they discussed the weather and school and summer vacation and what was on the news. It was perfectly perfect.

Finally, she finished.

I’ve never told a barber or a hair person of any variety that I didn’t like a cut, so even though I wasn’t feeling like it was exactly what I was after, I took the blame upon myself instead (maybe Noah doesn’t have the right kind of hair) and thanked her profusely.

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We took an after picture in the blaring sunlight, then went to Target to finish our errands. I thought that maybe the haircut just needed a little help to be what I had envisioned.

Noah was indifferent, as he has always been about his hair. But I explained my plan to him anyway.

“I’m going to buy you some gel. I think we can make your hair do the right thing with it.”

“I don’t want gel!”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t know what gel is.”

“Well that’s a terrible reason not to want it.”

“Does it look like Jell-o?”

“Definitely not.”

“Okay well we can try it.”

At Target…

“OOOOH here’s some ‘Swagger Gel.’ Do you want some swagger?”

“I don’t even know what Swagger is.”

“Well it’s time you learned.”

Clearly my kid needs to study up on vocabulary in first grade.

We decided on Aussie Hair Gel (because it was half the price of the Old Spice Swagger Gel – which Chris later said was no reason not to buy our kid some swagger) and tried it out when we got home.

By the stolen looks in the mirror and the impish grins I caught when he thought I wasn’t looking, I knew he loved it.

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And so did I. It was exactly as I had hoped. Even thought it instantaneously aged him by at least three years.

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That night, after his bath, he asked for gel.

“Well, we’ll probably have to do it again in the morning, but I can put some in if you want.”

“Actually, I want to learn how…”

We stood in front of the mirror, me standing behind him, giving him lessons on how to properly gel his hair.

“See, run your fingers through it. Then pull the bangs straight out, then give them a little flip upwards.”

He grinned and giggled at his newly unearthed forehead, jumped around with excitement, and made my day.

The next day after church, he found me and said “I’m ready for a mohawk.”

“Really?!? I thought that was the one line you wouldn’t cross.”

He shrugged.

I gave him what he asked for. He disappeared into his room to change his outfit to match – or at least his idea of matching. Then he swaggered outside where Chris was washing the car, leaned up against Chris’ Mustang, and asked me to take his picture.

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Vocabulary: Achieved.

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Revisiting The Black Spot

The Year was 2013.

I was experiencing, for the first time in my life, the harrowing realities of having a two and a half year old male creature.

He was fantastically adorable.

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Which did not make up for the fact that he was two and a half and therefore made me fear for his life continuously.

Lest you’ve never had a two and a half year old male of your own, here’s the short version: they’re fast enough to do whatever they want and stupid enough to do whatever they think of.

He wasn’t the type to take dangerous risks. In that, I was lucky. But he was the type to, every now and then when I was resting in my fortune that he wasn’t SO bad, do something completely and terrifyingly unexpected.

Such was the case with The Black Spot.

I had taken my two children, one being the ultra-responsible six year old girl and the other being the grab bag of surprises two and a half year old boy, to the downtown library. The downtown library is a giant place of wonder and excitement and history. Books of history. Newspaper microfiche filled with history. An entire extra multi-story building of history. And also floors covered in history.

We were in the entrance plaza, where there’s a semi-circle of low steps that lead from the front door to the desks. Those steps are well-traveled steps, and they definitely looked the part that day. It’s a constant movement of people walking through, tracking all of the outside world in and depositing it on those steps before truly entering the library.

And I still haven’t figured out what I did to cause the Creator to smite me so, but this black spot caught Noah’s eye that fateful day in 2013.

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I saw him take a second glance at it and I sadly did not think fast enough to compute all of the parallel realities in which this crucial second could take me. Ultimately, I was counting on my son’s relative calm to guide me through this potential storm.

But. Within .0483 seconds, he turned to that Choose-Your-Own-Adventure page that ends in “…and all the characters died. The End”

He stooped down and my precious lovely child LICKED THE FREAKING BLACK SPOT.

I saw his tongue go out and immediately started praying.

No Dear God No Dear God Please No Dear God No No No Please Don’t Let It Be…

I leaned over and checked. It was.

The black spot was now a moist black spot.

And my life and surely his were now over.

I was the failure of a mother who’d allowed her gorgeous toddler to lick the shoe sole botulism coating on a piece of year-old used chewing gum.

And he would surely start seizing at any moment.

I momentarily pondered washing his mouth out with Purell. Or perhaps a bar of soap. How about foaming hand soap in the bathroom? Maybe just dunk his head in the toilet. It couldn’t make it worse.

But deep down, I knew it was too late. I could visualize those wriggling black-spot germs burrowing into his tongue. I lived out the rest of that day in fear, watching him for any sign of instant demise.

But somehow, that was 2013 and this is 2017 and he’s still a healthy, gorgeous boy – and one that has the tiniest bit more sense than that black spot tasting two and a half year old.

For the first time since The Incident, I braved the downtown public library again with my children in tow. It wasn’t that the library had done anything to me, per say, but the Mommy Guilt that would scream at me from The Black Spot – I wasn’t sure I could bear up under it.

As we drove slowly to The Place of My Failure, I told my children the story of The Black Spot.

Ali remembered it, but Noah did not. He was fascinated by the tale of this unknown toddler – he couldn’t fathom ever being a Spot Licker.

We walked into the lobby and to the parcel of flooring that I knew I’d never forget. Both kids were eagerly chanting “Where’s the black spot? Where is it?”

We found the stair and there was indeed on its surface a slightly lighter spot – perhaps the same one, but probably not. After all, black spots come and go, but memories of licking them stay forever.

Noah proudly posed with his history.

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And the Oreo shrapnel around his mouth really added to the believability that he had, at one time, licked that.

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And all I could do in that moment is what every Mom in the universe has done before me. Sigh and silently hope that he, one day, has a child just like himself.

It’s Hard Work Being His Favorite.

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“Mommy, You’re the Best.”

“Hey Mommy………..I love you.”

I hear each of those phrases at least forty-eight times a day.

Noah likes me. A lot.

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And by a lot I mean he really prefers to be with me at all moments.

It’s utterly precious until it’s not.

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All the honest Moms out there say “here, here.”

“Not” starts somewhere around 10am in the morning when I need just a second or two by myself.

But that is an unreasonable request, he quickly lets me know.

And I have to ask…

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So to have a tiny second to myself, I try gifting him with the lovely bonus of a break from school. And I steal away to my room for just a second of silence from his incessant talking and questions and talking and questions.

But he comes and finds me.

During break time.

It’s as if he doesn’t understand that break times are for Mommies.

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So I do what any normal mom would do.

I take a shower.

Thinking that this is the one place I can have a moment alone.

Until I start to get out of said shower.

And notice a tiny set of blue eyes peeking from the other side of the cracked door.

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I scream.

Naturally.

Because my brain doesn’t immediately compute that it’s the stalker I birthed from my own body and not some other more nefarious stalker.

Which makes my tiny stalker cry.

“Mommy! You scared me!”

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Yeah. Because I wasn’t scared at all.

So we get in the car to do errands.

Where it becomes most apparent that he can only process thought if and only if he thinks out loud with the preface of “Hey Mommy….?”

After which he’ll wait 3 seconds for an interested answer.

I don’t give it. Because I only have so many interested answers a day and he’s already used them up before I get out of bed.

So he continues without feedback.

“Hey Mommy….did you know I once forgot to put my goggles on when I went down the slide at the pool?”

“Hey Mommy…I really like Pokemon.”

“Hey Mommy…you should really see mine and Ali’s city on Minecraft.”

After the first few Hey Mommys my brain feels like Louis C.K.

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After ten more Hey Mommys (and we haven’t even gotten out of the neighborhood yet) I feel like Klum.

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At Hey Mommy number 25 (we might have made it to the interstate by now) my insides are full-on Snape.

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Halfway through our 20 minute trip we reach Hey Mommy number 53 and all I hear and see and feel and am is Schwarzenegger.

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It’s rough being so thoroughly loved. But it’s precisely why we become Mommies.