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The Word Lesson

Teachings of a three-year old.

by Hal Evan Caplan
January 5, 2008

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The Word Lesson

My three year old son not only teaches me on a daily basis, but also reminds me that sometimes I really need watch what I say. In today's world, we have adopted several four-letter-words. These words may not be nice or appropriate and may not even be in the form of a cuss word, but they are used often.

My teacher, my wife and I were on our way to the zoo one afternoon. Usually we arrive early, just as the zoo opens. This works out great for us because most of the time there are very few people at that time of the morning. But when it gets closer to noon, well that's an entirely different story. Let's just say the word "packed" comes to mind.

On this day, we arrived later than usual and the zoo was already bustling with foot traffic. Because of the crowds, our zoo adventure was not as fun as it had been during prior visits. I felt claustrophobic in the crowd of people and listened to their ridiculous comments like, "boy, it sure does smell in here." Of course it smells; YOU'RE AT THE ZOO... I mean come on now, people...think about where you are! I am personally not a fan of the rudeness factor that is usually associated with crowds, like the pushing and shoving. All of this compounded another layer of frustration and "poof" - that was our day at the zoo...game over.

We couldn't take it any longer, we had had enough. My wife and I decided that we were ready to head out and leave after only a quick run through of my teacher's favorite parts of the zoo. The two of us were tired of the crowds and had to get out of there. So we left and made our way towards the parking lot. Luckily we were able to find our vehicle among the sea of cars, trucks and SUV's...all the while; my teacher was questioning why we were leaving so soon.

"Dad, why are we leaving?" He asked.

"Because I hate this BS!" I expressed.

"Dad-dad..da.."

"Please get in the car." I demanded.

He climbed into in his car seat and my wife buckled him in. At that moment, my teacher decided to put his lesson plan together and I would learn the lesson shortly. As usual, I had no idea his lesson was in progress.

My wife and I began a conversation that recapped how frustrated we were and that we couldn't believe that people actually acted so rudely. Our conversation had been going on for some time before my teacher interrupted, purposely, in order to make a point.

"Dad, you AND Mom did it again." He expressed.

"Did what?" I questioned.

"You don't know?" He asked.

"No, what do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, you and Mom taught me it was a bad word and not to say it - ever." He continued.

I began to think back on the conversation with my wife in hopes that I didn't accidentally slip up and blurt out a bad word. I couldn't recall saying anything that was inappropriate. So, I blew it off and continued the conversation with my wife.

Again, my teacher purposely interrupted us.

"Dad", he said, wagging his finger, as in making the 'tsk-tsk-tsk' motion. "You said it again!"

"Said what?" I shot back.

"I'm not going to say it, because I don't want to get in trouble." He feared.

"That's a good idea", I said. "I don't want you to get in to trouble either." I replied.

Again thinking back to my conversation, I could not for the life of me recall what bad word that I had said especially since it brought such a reaction from my teacher. As my teacher guzzled down his cold water, under my breath, I asked my wife if she knew what bad word he was talking about. She shrugged her shoulders. It actually was comical because my wife and I were both just racking our brains over it, but we came up with nothing...nadda...zilch...zero.

By now, my frustration level had come down a good bit, and my head didn't feel like it was about to explode any longer. Starbucks was just around the corner form the zoo, and my wife expressed that she wanted her usual - "Venti-blah-blah-blah-blah". Once we were parked in front of Starbucks, she jumped out in quest of her drink, leaving my teacher and me alone.

I turned the radio to the smooth jazz station and turned around and apologized to my teacher for the way I had just acted and that it was wrong of me to take my frustrations out on him. After the apology, I had to get to the bottom of this bad word thing...

"Buddy, I promise that you will not be in any trouble for telling me, but I really need to know the bad word that Mom and I used earlier, please." I pleaded.

"Promise, I won't get into trouble?" He Inquired.

"I promise!" I insisted.

Then actually he said the phrase that a good friend of mine told me most kids his age would eventually say, and one that I've been waiting to hear for three years..."When I was a little kid..."

"Dad, when I was a little kid you got mad at me because I said..." he paused... then he whispered "you said...HATE...and that is a BAD word."

"You are exactly right, that is a bad word and I shouldn't use it." I agreed.

"Do you know why we taught you that it is a bad word?" I asked.
"Because it's not nice...it's very mean to say that to people." He replied.

Once my wife got back into the car, I revealed the mystery word to her. She turned around to face my teacher and covered her mouth with her hand. She expressed to him that she was wrong for using that bad word and thanked him for correcting the two of us. With that said, he smiled and went back to drinking his cold beverage.

In a nutshell, the lesson that I learned that day is: The word "hate" is a powerful and negative word and like other 4 letter words should be carefully used...especially in front of children.

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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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