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The Train Lesson
Teachings of a Three Year Old.

by Hal Evan Caplan
February 18, 2008

The Train Lesson_Hal Evan Caplan-Teachings of a Three Year Old.My 3 year old son is my teacher of life's lessons. Sometimes when go out of my way in order to help a situation, he teaches me that there is always another side to see. The lessons that I learn do not always present themselves very clearly, and sometimes I have to step back and really look in order to see the big picture.

I was gearing up to leave the next day on a business trip, and my teacher was not happy about me leaving...not at all. He made it very clear that he was upset with my plans. My teacher started to cry once he saw me packing my suitcase. Next he started to pull all my clothes out of my bag...pleading for me to stay home. I felt it was best to wait until he went to bed before I continued my packing.

Even though it was close to bed time, I asked my teacher if he wanted to play.
"No." He replied.
"Are you sure?" I asked again.
"I'm just ready for bed." He replied.
"Oh, okay." I acknowledged.
"Mom, can you put me to bed?" He whispered in a sad tone.

Ouch that hurt! He gave me a hug and a kiss...if you want to call it that, and then my teacher shuffled off to bed. According to my wife, he fell fast asleep. She told me that during his bed time reading, he asked her to make me stay home, and that he had previously asked her this on several occasions...another jab with another ouch.

I was feeling a little guilty about traveling since my teacher was so upset. Even though I know it's for my job, it still didn't make it any easier for me to leave. My teacher didn't understand why I was leaving for several days this time, when usually I'm home from work at the end of each day.

Throughout my business trip, I would speak with him on the phone. That helped some, but I could still hear in his voice that it wasn't enough. I promised him I would bring him a surprise, "if he was a good boy for mommy". When he heard that he perked up, and expressed that he would be "the best boy ever".

In my mind, I felt that if I bought him a toy that he really wanted, it would lessen the blow upon my return. My plan was to give him the toy and watch as his eyes would open wide and fill with joy.

I made it a point to search and search for some Thomas the Trains. At this point in his love of toys, Thomas was at the top of his list, so I knew I couldn't go wrong with that. Luckily I found some to bring home to add to his collection.

I was over 300 miles away from my teacher and wife. When I was done with my clients and work, I headed home. I drove fast...really fast. Let's just say I was lucky not to get pulled over for speeding. I'm sure if I had been pulled over; the police officer would not have even bothered to ask me if I knew how fast I was going. The officer probably would have just hauled me off to jail for breaking the speed limit.

I was so excited to finally be home. Even though my business trip only lasted 3 days, it felt more like weeks, or even months.

I walked in the door around dinner time. My teacher dropped what he was doing in the other room, yelled "Daddy, you're finally home" and raced to where I was standing in the kitchen. He didn't give me JUST a hug and that would be too easy. He ran full force straight at me. It seemed like he ran faster towards me than I did driving home. He jumped and I picked him up and held him close in my arms.

Finally, I expressed that I had a surprise for him.

"What is it?" He asked.
"It's a surprise." I replied.
"...but what is it?" He asked again.
"Let's go into the living room." I suggested.

My teacher ran in there immediately while my wife and I stayed behind for a second to say our hellos. Once my teacher was on the couch, I asked him to close his eyes, and from behind my back I placed the set of Thomas the Trains in his hands. What I didn't know at the time was that I had also placed the lesson I was to learn in his hands at the same time.

"Open your eyes." I declared.
"Y...e...s!" He expressed with much excitement.
"Dad, lets play." He exclaimed
"I'd love to." I replied.

But only after a few minutes, my teacher stopped playing with the new trains I brought him and was back to playing with some of his old cars. I thought that was a little odd, and since the trains were new to him, I figured that he might even sleep with them...

"Dad, come play cars with me." He asked.
"What about the new trains I just brought you?" I asked.
"Cars, or trains, or wrestle, or hide-n-seek." He started listing out.
"Anything..." He continued.

...and then it occurred to me that it didn't matter to him what game we were playing or what toy we were playing with, but more importantly that I was playing with him. Then he said something to me that one, made me tear up and two, I will never forget!

"Dad, I love being with you!"

In a nutshell, the lesson that I learned that day is: The best gift I can ever give to my son is my time and attention.

About the Author:
Originally from Colorado; now residing in Alabama. Hal is married and has a son. Hal loves the outdoors and is always willing to learn...and of course, always learns from his son.

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