The Substitute

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On Saturday morning I took my son to the neighborhood barber for a much-needed haircut.  After much protesting and eye-rolling, he agreed that his curly hair was out of control.  Two weeks of wrangling with it unsuccessfully was enough to get him in the chair and see if the barber could reach that happy medium between messy and controlled – messy enough for him to think it’s cool and controlled enough for me to resist the urge to blow on his head like a dandelion and have all the overgrown hair magically blow away.

We walked into the barbershop and he sat in the chair and told the barber what he wanted – long on top and short on the sides and back.  The barber (with a wink to me) suggested taking an inch off the top just to clean it up a bit, to which my son agreed as I wisely kept my mouth shut.  Sitting there I recalled a conversation my son and I had some years back, when, as a decidedly less snarky six-year-old, he told me he might want to be a “haircutter” when he grew up, among other occupations.

The list at that time also included being a musician, an astronaut, a ninja warrior, a preschool teacher, and a chocolate factory owner.  The more his world expanded around him, the more interested he became in what folks did for a living, and whenever he learned about a new occupation, he would declare that that’s exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up .

One day, perhaps overwhelmed by all the myriad employment options in the world, he told me that when he grew up, he wanted to be a substitute.

“A substitute teacher?” I remember asking him.  “No mom, just a substitute.  Like, when a grown up gets sick and can’t do their job, I’ll go in and do it for them.  Like on Monday I can be a rock star, on Tuesday I can be a chef, on Wednesday I can drive a school bus. . .”  Well, I figured with this plan he would certainly never be bored or unemployed.  I remember smiling and telling him that he would have to know about a lot of different things to do all those different jobs.  How would he learn them all?

And with that beaming bundle of confidence only a six-year-old can possess, he said very seriously and matter-of-factly, “well I don’t know, but I know I can do them all.”  As far as he was concerned, it was a foregone conclusion.  How could I possibly have any doubts?  Sitting in the barbershop and thinking about that exchange reminded me of the inspiring and magical ability children possess to believe that all things are possible and within reach.  As adults, to be dusted with a bit of that magic every day is a blessing.

Currently the 11-year-old’s list still includes musician but filmmaker has also entered the fray.  As his mom, of course I believe he can do anything he sets his mind to.  And as far as I can tell, he hasn’t stopped believing either.  I’m sure if I reminded him of this conversation he would just sigh and tell me to stop embarrassing him.  But if I did that, then I wouldn’t be doing my job. :)

 

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