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The Wrong Way Lesson

Teachings of a Three Year Old.

by Hal Evan Caplan
July 18, 2007

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The Wrong Way Lesson
The Wrong Way Lesson_Hal Evan Caplan-Teachings of a Three Year Old.Learning from a 3 year old is such a humbling experience. As adults think we know it all and we get into that GO, GO, GO mentality. Because of this, we sometimes choose not to listen to our kids, one, since they "are kids" and two, we "are the parents". Well, I'm here to say from personal experience, this theory is not always right. My three year old teacher often wants to understand why I do certain things the way that I do. Upon explaining the situation at hand to him I sometimes see things in a different light. I have learned so many things from my three year old teacher and believe me, it's far from over. I'll have a lifetime ahead of learning from him, but for now he is three; therefore, he is my three year old teacher.

I know as a guy I'm not supposed to admit that I have NO sense of direction. I mean, if I were lost in a brown paper bag with a map, I could find my way out...maybe. Now, my wife on the other hand, that's a different story altogether. It's actually a little embarrassing for me to admit that she can find anything. And, if she has been somewhere, just one time, no matter how long ago, she does not require a map or directions to get back a second time. In the same situation, I would have to be told exactly where to go each time, with directions in hand, mind you, and maybe after the tenth time, I might be lucky enough to actually find the destination.

About 5 years ago, my wife took me to one of our beautiful state parks. That was the only time that I had been there, until a couple of months ago, when we decided it would be fun to revisit that park with our son. With my wife behind the wheel, our little family drove to the park.

This park offers many different activities, and one activity that my three year old teacher has become passionate about is riding on their professional BMX dirt track. We spent almost the entire day there watching as he raced around and around the track. At the end of our day, my wife drove us home. Take in mind that I was not really paying attention to where she was driving, more like just sitting there exhausted and happy to be in an air conditioned environment – the car. Remember, we are in the south, and it can get really hot.

A few weeks later, my three year old teacher expressed interest in returning to the BMX track at the park. My wife was busy studying and would not be able to join us. So, my teacher and I planned on making a day of it by packing lunch and drinks. He was all excited that he would get to try and improve his skills at the BMX track, and in his words, "I want to go even faster – faster – fastest of all time".

Prior to us leaving, my wife asked if I knew where to go and I of course had to give her the 'ole thumbs up. Even if I was NOT 100% sure...I couldn't let her know that there was a doubt in my mind. I would never hear the end of it if she knew that I was actually nervous about driving back to the park by myself in fear of getting lost.

My teacher and I packed the truck and headed out. While en route toward the park, the only thing that I was certain of was the main road headed in the direction of the park. As for the rest of the way, well…that's a different story, it was a bit fuzzy. To put it best, I honestly didn't feel any hope that I'd even recognize any landmarks along the way.

As he and I trekked down the main road, my three year old teacher was getting even more excited by the minute.
"We are almost there." He blurted out.
"I know – I know", I stated, even though I was not really sure.
"We are almost there...we are almost there...we are almost there..." He sang.
"How did he know this?" I asked myself. I mean, he has only been there one time in the past and that was months ago.

Much to my dismay, my lesson was about to begin...and it was an embarrassing lesson at that. As we approached a four-way stop sign, I was not clear which direction to turn. I noticed the majority of the cars were either coming from or going to one direction, the same direction…so I felt confident this was where I needed to turn.

Immediately, my three year teacher began...

"Dad, you're going the wrong way!" He started.
"No I'm not." I defended myself.
"You need to turn around." He continued
"Most of the other cars are going this way." I confidently replied.
"But the park is the other way, Dad."
"How do you know?" I asked.
"Because I've been there before." He exclaimed.
"I have too..." I replied.
"But Dad, you are going the WRONG way...you doofus." He expressed.

As I continued to drive in the current direction, I began to think that maybe he was right. But I thought to myself that I would continue to drive this way just a little longer...

Finally, with my tail between my legs, I felt it was time to turn around. I did so and ended up at "that" four-way stop sign for a second time. Just for kicks, I decided to ask my three year old teacher the correct way to go. I pressed onward in the direction that he was pointing. Shortly thereafter, the park's entrance gates appeared.

"Oh great." I whispered to myself.
"See...see, I told you I knew." He boasted.
"Did you really know which way to turn?" I asked.
"Yes, I was trying to tell you a long time ago, but you didn't listen." He answered.
"How did you know where to go?" I asked.
"I know what I know!" He replied.

What could I say to that? I mean he was right and I did go in the WRONG direction. My hope now was for him not to say anything to my wife because I knew I would never hear the end of it. Ever. But so far so good, she hasn't said anything to bruise my male ego anymore than I already have bruised it myself...

One thing is for sure. Luckily my three year old teacher got his awesome sense of direction from his mom. If it weren't for his insistence and knowing what he knew, I would still be driving the wrong way up that road today...lost in that brown paper bag.

In a nutshell, the lesson that I learned that day is: Don't feel embarrassed to ask for, or to accept help, especially when you really need it.

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PO BOOKS BY HAL EVAN CAPLAN
Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke
Published September 28, 2010

A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.

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Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke,
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A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.

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More by Hal Evan Caplan
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