It stared at him like a boil on his cheek. My son, seated passenger side, grimaced in the sun visor mirror.
“Dad, I forgot to wet my hair,” he said.
His right sideburn, resembling more the soft hair on his head than facial hair, was smoothed down his adolescent cheek. His left sideburn, however, curled up like he had slept with a roller. Over and over he ran his fingers from top to bottom, attempting to iron out the impending embarrassment. We were less than a mile from school.
“Yes it is! It won’t stay down!” His rubbing had elevated into swiping.
“Lick your fingers. That’ll keep it down.” A pro at resolving curl and cowlick challenges, I shared my secret for the quick fix. (Of course, if you look at my bio photo, I have other solutions for this problem.)
“That’s gross! I’m not wiping germs on my face,” he said, reaching for the water bottle in his backpack.
“They’re your own germs!” I said.
By then I was thinking, How can I convince him that this is not an emergency? It’s just a curl! I wanted to tell him “just wait until your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.” That’s an emergency. I wanted to say “just wait until you’re an adult and you can’t pay your bills.” That’s an emergency. Or worse yet, “just wait until your child lies in a hospital bed and you feel helpless; just wait until you’re tired of your job but you still have to work; just wait until you have a blow-up with your wife and your marriage teeters on divorce; just wait…” Those are emergencies.
This was the perfect teaching moment, but we were only two blocks from the school. How can I squeeze in a lesson, I thought, to help him see how trivial this is, that 10 years from now he’ll realize how ridiculous it was? He had heard it all before, but I wanted him to get it this time.
There was a pause, then like a dirt clod to the head another voice inside interrupted my speech preparation.
Brock, it’s just a curl.