The Curl

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.

“Dad, it won’t stay down!”

“Son, it’s just a curl. It’s not a big deal,” I replied.

“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.

11 thoughts on “The Curl

  1. Thanks so much, L.L. All of you at The High Calling have been wonderful. I’m blessed to have found an online community with such vast backgrounds of life, passion, and artistry, all blended together.And no doubt, I’ve never learned so much from a tiny curl. God surprises me in the smallest of packages. 🙂

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  2. (smile) Too true, Ann, too true. That’s another reason I kept my mouth shut. I remember the zits and bad hair days and trying to impress the girls. It’s easy to point out the silliness of it all as an adult, but when you’re a teen, it’s life to the extreme and it’s very real.Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Every “curl” is a big deal when you’re a teen heading into school. And, as you point out, sometimes we grownups focus too much on the curls of life, as well.I’m trying to find the balance between commiserating with my teen daughters over their minor catastrophes and providing some perspective, as well. The big zit that erupts the night before school pictures really does seem like an emergency to a middle-class suburban teenage girl. Figuring out what is a teachable moment and what is something to let go is such a moment-by-moment discernment thing. For the girls, though, a little cover-up makeup is handy…just as the water bottle was a quick solution to minimize the disastrous curl.

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  4. Amy–He ended up using his water bottle BEFORE leaving the car. Too funny. :)Jennifer–Thanks for the encouragement and for stopping by. I’ve been swiping and fussing a lot lately…I wonder where my son gets it? ;)Bradley–We’ve already ruined ours. Just kidding…at least I hope I am! 🙂

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  5. Brock – I really enjoy your writing – the tension here is great, and so real. I have two teen girls, and we try to give them little doses of reality about growing up into adulthood, but then again, we don’t want to ruin their lives too early.

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  6. Why didn’t you suggest he go into the bathroom at school and wet his hair? Or do kids do that? Probably not, because how embarrassing would that be? ha ha

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