Many of us have often wished that we had not wished quite so often.

I'm not exactly sure what that statement means, but I'm going to give it a try anyway.

When we are kids, we cannot wait to get another year older. I'm sure the presents, birthday cakes and other benefits make us wish we could age as quickly as possible.

Then, after we've gotten old enough to legally be able to drive, vote and drink (never at the same time), we soon find ourselves wishing that the years would slow down a bit.

At my age, the birthdays come around faster than a merry-go-round with its accelerator stuck.

Speaking of driving, the novelty of that eventually starts to wear off. The first years are great - even if means you have to take your little sister to ballet lessons in order to drive.

(Heck, I would have done a few twirls around the floor in a tutu myself if it would have earned me more time behind the wheel.)

But it isn't too long before that sense of freedom we associate with driving gives way to a daily routine. This is primarily due to the fact that most of the driving we do is usually to and from work.

As a new driver, I would have gladly driven out to Indianapolis, Ind., driven in the Indy 500 and then motored home just for time behind the wheel.

Once I entered the work-a-day world, I started to resent the 16-mile round trip between my home and the newspaper office.

The traffic made it even worse. Sometimes I would get a red light on the highway home, and vehicles would be backed up a half-block or more.

(Of course, traffic jams are all relative. My brother used to live on Long Island, where he could run into a half-block long line of cars just getting out of his driveway.)

But I think the biggest disappointment on my wish list was waiting until I was old enough to shave.

For guys, shaving is a kind of facial ID card - showing that you have reached a certain maturity.

That's probably why we kids would only use napkins when absolutely necessary. The chocolate-milk mustache was our first indication what it would be like to actually have facial hair.

Mother was not that thrilled by the experience, so my brothers and I rarely made it out of the kitchen without her doing chocolate-milk-mustache "electrolysis" with a damp dish towel.

I was - so to speak - a relatively late bloomer when it came to a non-milk mustache. It took me a while even to reach the peach-fuzz stage.

It didn't make matters any better that some of my friends were early bloomers. I think my friend Henrik could have grown a beard by the time he was 12.

The only reason he didn't was because he still wanted to get into the movie theater for the 12-and-under price.

I must have been at least 13 or 14 before I was able to grow enough hair on my upper lip to be technically considered a mustache. My first thought was to use a felt-tip marker to sort of "connect the dots" of those individual follicles.

However, I thought about my total lack of artistic ability and abandoned my plan. I don't think I would have fooled many people if it looked like a drunken black worm had fallen asleep on my upper lip.

As is the case with most young guys, I started shaving long before I really needed to. I could have gone months without shaving and it still would have looked like I only had a faint shadow on my upper lip and chin.

By contrast, Dad had the capability of growing a heavy-duty beard. During the town's centennial celebration, he grew one and looked as though he was a descendent of the heavily bearded Smith Brothers of cough drop fame.

If Dad went a day without shaving, the resulting stubble was rough enough to sand wood - if he got a strange urge to do that.

Dad was old school when it came to shaving. He had a shaving brush that he would use to whip up and apply lather on his bristly beard. Then he would use a safety razor with a double-edge blade to hack away at the stubble.

I tried to imitate his ease with the shaving brush and razor, but it did not go well. I would up with lather in my mouth, left nostril and right ear. The razor must have scraped at least two layers of skin off my face.

To make matters worse, I didn't have to shave again for six months.

The Red Cross eventually asked me to switch to an electric razor because I was draining the blood supply by shaving with a blade.

I never cut myself with an electric razor, but it never seemed to get to the bottom of my sparse facial hair. I think that was how I started to grow a beard in the first place.

A few years ago, I switched to a disposable razor when I trimmed my beard back to a goatee. Now that is getting so gray you can hardly notice it from a distance.

When my goatee goes totally white, I may not have not to shave at all.

I'll just let it grow into a full beard, and then when Christmas comes around, I can pick up some extra money playing Santa Claus at parties.

(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)