I’ve been sporting a somewhat new look lately.
Some have told me they like it, that “it looks good on ya'”
Others have asked “that your winter look?”
It’s a beard that I’ve had hanging around my face as of late, and I’m not quite sure whether or not to let it remain. It all started unintentionally. Over the course of the summer, I had gotten a cut of some sort on my face that the doctors thought had become infected. As it was healing, I was told by the doctors not to shave, for fear of cutting it open and starting the process all over again.
So I didn’t. And the hair grew, and grew and grew.
Now, I look a bit like I’m going to go in our backyard and chop wood. It’s a look and (sometimes itchy) feel I’ve not quite grown accustomed to over the years. With the exception of a ‘van dyke‘ (don’t mistakenly call it a goatee, I’m told) during some time in college, I’ve pretty much been a clean-shaven guy all my life. So now that all has healed and I can shave if I like, I’m not sure if I should.
Yes, I’ve gotten ‘good reviews’ so far from friends and family. But, this week, I got an opinion from my most brutally honest fan of all – our two year old son.
“No beard, dada! No beard!” he told me, firmly, then proceeding to try and wipe it or brush it off of my face.
“Me cut, dada! Me cut!”
If there’s one thing you can always count on amid the unpredictability of kids, it is that they will almost always speak the truth of what’s on their mind, what they think, in the most clear form possible.
If only we adults could do that.
Apparently, he does not approve, so we’ll have to see how long it sticks around.
There, on the floor, humming a little song to himself, was our son, now two and in full-on toddler mode, playing. Just playing. With a combination of toy animals, Fisher Price Little People and equally little Sesame Street characters, they were being placed in and out of a barn, a hay loft, or into a tractor, all against the carefree humming of a song I’ll never know, but makes me so glad to hear.
A plastic crate of apples (from the Little People farm stand set he got for his birthday), was placed inside his Little People plane.
“Who’s going on the plane, buddy?”
“Where are they going?”
“Where’s home for the apples?”
Little Ernie, in a construction worker outfit, was bounced along the roof of the barn along with a Little Boy Farmer toy. Were they hitting each other, I wondered, as he pushed them together.
“What are they doing, buddy?”
“They’re hugging, dada! Hugging!”
I couldn’t but help but smile at the delight and laughter that followed. His toys knew the power of a hug, because he does. It made me feel wonderful.
This time goes by quick. I realize I’ve been lax in keeping up to date on the standard childhood milestone – something you’d think I would be better at as a fatherhood blogger. A lot’s happened in recent months and I’ve sort of glossed over it in terms of chronicling.
We consider ourselves very very lucky that he’s shown an interest in the potty since he got one for Christmas back in December. He’s fortunately kept that interest and while still in diapers, he lets us know (most of the time, but admittedly not all) when he has to go, with a pat to his bottom and a “Dada! Mama! Potty!” giving us the cue that it’s time to take action and get him onto the pot!
Letters and numbers started cropping up on a regular basis in the winter and spring and once we noticed it, have tried to keep it up every day in some form or another. He took it upon himself to take letter magnets off the fridge and tell us which letters were in his hand. Within months, it’s only gotten better, and we sing our ABCs together as a family, and sometimes stop to let him fill in a gap and try his hand at what letter comes next. When we heard him mumbling in the winter as he’d go up and down the stairs, we weren’t quite sure what he was saying – until we listened closer and realized he was counting the steps as he went. Now, we count everything and anything. Sometimes we go straight through, and sometimes there’s a 7-8-9-10-9-7 based on his mood at the time.
Regardless, he’s interested. He’s curious. He wants to know and I love it.
He climbs into his car seat on his own now, which only in this past week, I turned around to face the same way I do when I drive him to and from each morning. We talk about what we see out the window.
He’s not a baby anymore. He’s a little boy.
As all these things were going on, I wasn’t writing them down because I now realize I was far too busy enjoying every single minute of it as it was happening.
How could I not?
He just turned two this summer. It’s flown by, and if I don’t savor every moment I can (taking a few moments here and there for reflection), well, I’ll let an old favorite of mine, Ferris Bueller sum it up:
“No!” he said to me, his brow furrowed.
“What is it, buddy?” I ask.
“What do you mean, move?”
“Move, dada!” he said, fiercely, waiting for me to move several steps behind him as opposed to the usual ‘right behind him to spot him’ we’ve done since he started walking up those stairs on his own.
“You don’t want me behind you, buddy?”
I obliged and went three steps back. And wouldn’t you know it, every few steps, he would stop and turn around to make sure I was giving him that space.
And up-up-up he went.
How quickly the urge to declare one’s independence comes.
It has taken me many years to fully come to terms with this, and it is something I often have to remind myself of to this day. But it’s important. And, as I have since childhood, I’m going to frame it in the context of something that is easier for me to understand and explain – film.
You don’t need to be Sam Wainwright to matter.
In the film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey’s friend Sam is a successful businessman who has gone out into the world and made a lot of money while George has stayed in Bedford Falls and reluctantly carried on the family business of the Savings and Loan.
George Bailey had big plans for his life. He was going to see the world. He was going to have adventures across the globe. But he didn’t. He stayed in his hometown, married, fixed up a drafty old house, had a few kids, and did what he could to help his friends. There were times, though, when life got tough, overwhelming, and it drove George to really question his place in the world amid his friends who went off and did big things.
When I was younger, I used to think I was so important to the universe. That I was meant for great things, which led to massive bouts of sadness, frustration and disappointment when I would feel that I wasn’t living up to those expectations, especially as I got older and life changed, took off in various directions, etc.
But what I’ve come to realize is that we all are important to this universe, for different reasons. Sometimes those great things are on a smaller scale and not as grandiose as you may think.
I’ve sat and wallowed in disappointment that I’m not doing the big things. Not writing the great American novel. Not writing sought-after screenplays, television shows, mainstream comic books and cartoons. Not making big budget movies and kidding around with stars.
And that is all okay. You know why?
Because none of it matters.
The people I spend my time with, be they my wife, my son, or our friends and family, are genuinely invested in us and our lives, as we are theirs.
Someone famous or well-known may follow you on Twitter and hey, that’s cool. But unless they’re coming over to the house for dinner or helping you out when that flat tire comes on your car, the real-life relationships on your journey are what will matter in the bigger picture.
I’m not bashing those who get excited because someone with a blue check mark on social media gave them a shout out or a follow. What I’m saying is, don’t make it your world. Make those around you, really around you, physically and emotionally your world. That will count for more than any number of online followers, fans or likes. Trust me.
I’ll say it again because I can’t say it enough. Because I have to remind myself of it on those days when I wonder what happened, how did I get here, and wonder about my place in the world – You don’t have to be Sam Wainwright.
You don’t have to be the major success of your town, of your work, of your friends. Just be a George Bailey. Be a good friend. Be a good person.
Be the person who has been intertwined in people’s lives in a way that has hopefully made them for the better. Maybe it was introducing them to new people they would have never met without you who went on to become even better friends, maybe it was being the person who writes that great recommendation letter that helps get someone else a job, or maybe it’s just being a source of support when someone asks if you’ve got the time to talk or have a cup of coffee.
Judge yourself not on how many people know your name, or the names you can drop, but by the kind of person you are.
Looking back on my life, I was constantly looking to be a Sam Wainwright when I was younger. And yes, sometimes it still hits me and I wonder ‘did I head down the wrong path?’ ‘was there more to my destiny than this?’
And then I realize that being a George Bailey is pretty damn good. Because the quality of the life lived and the lives touched, will mean so much more in the end than any award on the wall, social media brag, or product sold.