My kids are eight, six and four now (he said, because it's been so long since this blog was updated on anything close to a regular basis that he has absolutely no expectation that anyone would remember) and those really are some fun ages. All of them are too old for diapers, naps, and other such signifiers of babyhood, which gives us on the whole a lot more flexibility of scheduling and freedom of movement and whatnot. The eldest reads at a fairly advanced level (Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and Star Wars novelizations &c.) and the six-year-old is coming up fast behind him; the 'bino still needs to be read to but he enjoys it and will pick books out for himself to listen to. But at the same time, they're all still little enough to have wild, unfettered imaginations, and to enjoy flagrant displays of affection with their parents, and various good innocent fun stuff like that. If it were in fact possible to pause time and keep things exactly the same, now would be as good a time as any to hit the button.
So yesterday was Father's Day and serves well as a micro-case-in-point. All three kids made little craft projects for me at their daycare, and all three involved self-expression. For the four-year-old, the pre-school teacher asked him why he loves his dad and faithfully transcribed the answer onto a keyhook plaque that the 'bino had painted. His answer, for the record, was because I read to him at bedtime. The other two kids are n the same before-and-after elementary school program, so they made popsicle-stick-and-ribbon wall hangings, with a different reason why they love their dad written on each stick. The scion wrote three reasons, leaving the last two sticks blank, though as I unwrapped the gift he promised he would get around to finishing it. (He has some low-grade ADHD issues, so again, this is perfectly illustrative.) And my darling little girl provided her own four reasons for filial devotion, and the number one on her list was: "Because he has a mustache."
Fair enough! That is certainly something that has been true her entire life (and much longer, to be honest). And the mustache also has a pretty good historical track record of symbolically indicating the father figure. In fact, let's just go ahead and acknowledge that American Father's Day is for all intents a repurposing of St. Joseph's Day, the Feast of the Holy Father. I can't recall ever seeing any religious iconography of Joseph of Nazareth where the dude doesn't have a full complement of handsome facial hair. I'm not saying being clean-shaven rules out the possibility that you can be a good dad, but apparently, in my daughter's book at least, the fuzzy-faced look is a big plus.
I'm also reminded of the fact that at some point in my youth (i.e. my early teens, when my own father was in his late thirties), my father shaved the mustache he had been growing since college. He got a fair number of complements, no negative feedback to speak of, and life continued more or less as normal for our family unit (for a little while longer, anyway). His childhood best friend, with whom he was still in regular contact and who also had sported whiskers for close to two decades, observed all of this and decided to un-mustache. His act of radical grooming had for more consequential repercussions! That guy's wife simply refused to accept his naked upper lip, and not only gave him the silent treatment for a few days but convinced his two sons (who were, like, ten and eight or something) to do the same, until the guy relented and began regrowing his mustache. These days we're all still in touch, and while my father has gone several rounds over the past two and a half decades of clean-shaven to fully bearded and back again, his old chum has stuck with the 'stache ever since. So, you know, to each his own.