Make that first shave memorable – by not making a big deal about it.
You’re going to be tempted to make a joke at his expense about it, but don’t. Depending where you are on the emotional spectrum, you might also go misty-eyed, or get an urge to hug the boy and launch into singing “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Also don’t. Really, especially don’t. Just. Don’t.
But the time has indeed come: Your son has asked you to show him how to shave. Here are the eight steps for a successful experience.
- Play it Cool. Be as neutral about this as if he had asked you to show him how to operate the can opener. “Oh, okay – when do you want to do it?” He might feel funny about it, so don’t act like it’s some Cherokee Indian Youth’s Rite of Passage. How do you know it’s time? When he asks.
- Share your prep routine, but give an alternative. “I like to do it right out of the shower, but some guys prefer doing it at another time.” Stress that in either case, what’s important is that face is clean, and softened up with warm water. Go to the sink right after the shower, or stand at the sink and wash your face thoroughly with hot water and soap. Pat dry. (Note: If you’re a fella who likes to shave in the shower, that’s not a great place for a kid’s first shave.)
- Begin and End with Foam. More on the latter later, but make this as simple as possible by using your basic foam shaving cream (at least for now, stay away from gels). Nothing “smelly” – “Original” Barbasol is good, but anything like it that’s unscented is the way to go. Show him how to get the foam out of the can, and spread it on your face. Then let him do the same for himself.
- Practice Run. Keep the razor choice simple. Make it a simple Gillette or similar disposable, but make it the double blade one (no, don’t give him a four a six blade monstrosity!). Now KEEP THE PLASTIC COVER ON and tell to practice shaving. If he’s not getting on the foam off, he’s not applying enough pressure. Tell him short strokes are best. After he has the feel of it, have him put more foam on his face, and take the plastic covering off.
- Rinse Often. Explain that the blade needs to rinsed off in the sink or run under slow-running hot water every two to four strokes. If running the blade under running water, make sure the blade is facing down, away from you. If it’s facing up, the water is actually pushing the whiskers/hairs back into the blade which can cause it to clog up and even make for cuts.
- Making Faces. Explain how the face is uneven, but there are tricks to making it easier to shave. Curling the top lip down so the space between nose and the mouth. Sticking the tongue in front of the bottom teeth to make that part easier to shave, etc.
- Completing the Task. Tell him he knows he’s all done when simply there is no foam on his face. Have him give a quick close look at himself to make sure he didn’t miss any spots. Have him splash some more water on his face and wipe off with a clean hand towel.
- Start with Foam, End with Foam. “Celebrate” with some after shave – but nothing liquid, and certainly nothing that will make him stinking up the school bus by smelling like your octogenarian Uncle Lumpy. Let him have the tiniest bit of Joseph Meyer Foaming After Shave to spread on his hands, and then apply to his face. Kids love foam, and it makes for a nice bookend to the experience. If it stings him a bit, he’ll know it’s working. It helps clean him, and gives him the slightest, most subtle distinguished scent.
Regal him with your tales of bad shaves, so he knows it’s normal to do it “wrong” sometimes, and that when he does accidentally cut himself a bit, it’ll be okay. Then send him off on his way while you retreat with a stiff glass of Kentucky Bourbon as you listen to Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young.”