Beard becomes a growing issue

Very little can truly prepare a parent for hearing some of the things that come out of their children’s mouths. No matter how many times you’ve read “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” believe me, your offspring will come up with something better.

I spent the first half of my children’s lives petrified that they would loudly say something inappropriate about a stranger in the grocery store, or, horror of horrors, curse in church. Miraculously, they did no such thing. No, they waited until lately to really hit me with the good stuff.

Just the other day, I was walking past the bathroom in my usual mostly preoccupied state of mind. A voice piped out from the other side of the door, “Hey Mom, I’m going to grow a beard!”

I stopped dead in my tracks, feeling poleaxed. What? A beard? Son, you’re EIGHT. Somehow, I don’t think ZZ Top is looking for new band members. Finally, I was able to form a coherent thought. “So…just how are you going to do that?” Without missing a beat, he said “Oh, I’m going to think about it.”

Think about it? Mind over matter? WHAT? “OK, you go right ahead and do that,” I said, beating a hasty retreat, seriously questioning my mental faculties.

Apparently, prior to this traumatizing experience, my husband had teased my son about growing a beard. It wasn’t necessarily an idle jab, due to my son’s newest talent of blowing bubbles with bubble gum.

Ever one to “think outside the box,” he decided that holding the gum in his mouth while blowing a bubble was too much trouble. Instead, he plastered the wad of gum around his mouth and exhaled to achieve new (to him) heights in bubble blowing.

The sticky residue soon attracted every particle of dust surrounding my erstwhile child, bringing a few pet hairs along for good measure. His dad had sent him to the bathroom to scrub his face. I breathed an audible sigh of relief. There was a reasonable, logical explanation for my son’s sudden infatuation with facial hair.

I carried on for a while that day, seemingly secure in my sanity. That illusion quickly disappeared when my darling boy came up to me later and asked “Mom? Can kids really grow beards?”

Hoo boy. My brain chose that moment to show me a picture of the kids with the “wolfman gene.” You know the one, where people grow hair all over their faces. Yikes, I thought. Let’s not even go there. Knowing my son, it would be something he’d try to achieve before Halloween. So I tried for a safe answer.

“Most don’t, sweetie,” I said. “Unless they have a certain genetic anomaly, and you don’t. You’ll just have to wait for puberty.”

Phew, I thought. Dodged that one. I should have taken note of the thoughtful look on my darling boy’s face. Most parents are very familiar with that look. It’s the one an 8-year-old boy gets when he’s contemplating how to most efficiently achieve world domination.

“Mom,” he said, stroking his chin, no doubt dreaming of beardly glory. Then he hit me with it. “Can I have a puberty?”

I guffawed. I snorted. I chortled. There stood my son, looking rather serious, and slightly hopeful. Again, parents are familiar with this look. It usually happens after they ask for something and you say no, but their little ears have interpreted it as maybe, which, to a kid, means yes. Hope brightening his face, he tried bargaining. “I’ll give you a piece of candy for it!”

Stifling my mad laughter, I tried to soften the blow, and gently said that no, it didn’t work that way. Sensing that his dream was slipping out of his grasp, he tried one last ditch effort. “But I promise I’ll only use it once!”

“You’ve got that right!” I managed to choke out before dissolving into howls of laughter. I eventually regained enough control to explain he’d just have to wait, and that no amount of candy could make it happen faster. I think he gets it. He’s not thrilled, but he gets it.

And of course, that little episode is a gift that just keeps on giving. As we were leaving Wal-Mart the other day, my daughter became convinced that she needed a phone. She finally wailed “But why can’t I have a phone?”

“For the same reason your brother can’t have a puberty,” quipped my husband. I sure am glad that the passers-by and the store greeter didn’t seem too fazed by my insane giggling. The kids definitely weren’t impressed.

Shana Thornhill lives on farm near Marion. She can be reached at