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The Clean Up Lesson
Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke.

by Hal Evan Caplan
May 20, 2009

The Clean Up Lesson_Hal Evan Caplan-Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke.My teacher is also my little tyke, and he has an abundance of many gifts. Some of his gifts include an abundance of laughter, smiles and even negotiating skills, but more to the point, he is filled with lessons... lessons that need to be shared and taught. I am his student. He can and does teach me these lessons on a regular basis. It doesn't matter what kind of mood I'm in, or what kind of mood he is in for that matter, these lessons are exactly that. These are his lessons and I am his student.

Messes are a common thing. Think about it; after the meal has been cooked and our bellies are full and there is still the mess to clean up. Or... what if mud gets splashed on your car, the first instinct is to rinse it off, unless of course the mud caked on your vehicle is something that was planned, like four-wheeling.

Something that my wife and I have tried to instill upon our son, my teacher, is to always clean up after himself. Now, I didn't say that it always works or that he always listens, but we certainly encourage this type of behavior.

We have a small house that is not equipped with a basement. I'm not complaining about the size of our house; I’m merely stating this because our living room is the main location where my teacher plays with his toys. He likes to build very large train tracks for his Thomas the Train collection. Actually, these architectural marvels occur fairly often... and take up the entire living room. Picture this... in order for me to walk across the living room; I have to morph into something of a circus tight-rope-walker. You should see me balancing on one foot as I plan out the location for my other foot to step. Tip-toeing until I am out of the room, I am careful not to step on his tracks. This would cause massive pile up of the many trains zooming around the track. Obviously, I need to make sure that I don't destroy one of his tracks or trains, or better yet, my foot!

During a recent build, my teacher constructed this master piece, and yes, it took up the entire room. Because this took my teacher several days to construct and I had to allow him his "play-time" as well, this massive creation stayed intact for almost a week. Slowly through out the week, train tracks started to come undone, not that they are difficult to reassemble, and the trains and buildings were becoming more scarce in the living room. Needless to say, these toy trains and houses were popping up in other parts of the house as objects in another game.

As you can imagine, my wife and I finally had it... "NO MORE train tracks... they have been out long enough!" I heard my wife express from the other room. I'm not sure if she was merely expressing aloud to anyone who would hear her, or if she was actually talking to my teacher. Nonetheless, I agreed with her 100%.

The next step you ask? It was time for my teacher to clean this mess up... and more to the point, his mess. Little did I know, that he would be teaching me a lesson in the middle of this clean up project.

"Okay son, it's time to pick up all of your trains, train tracks, houses and anything that had to do with your railroad town." I explained.
"But I'm not done". He demanded.

I know some of his little tricks. He puts these in place in hopes to not have to do the chore at hand. You know what I mean, a great example of this... if he doesn't want to eat anymore dinner, especially the veggies, we often hear the words, "If I eat anything else, I will throw up" come out of his mouth. In this case, he did not want to clean the trains, so his ploy was to express the fact that he was still playing with them, which he clearly was not...

"You haven't played trains in two days". I pointed out.
"I was waiting..." He fired back.
"Waiting? For what"? I asked.
"For you." He replied.
"Why would you be waiting for me"? I asked. "We have played together many days in the past week."

Apparently, I assumed why he was waiting for me because I certainly didn't expect to hear what he said next.

"Dad, it would be much faster if you helped".

I knew somehow, I would be brought into this equation... I knew it... I knew it...

"They are your toys, your mess, you are the one who got all of the tracks and toys out yourself... you need to clean it up". I demanded.
"But Dad, it's true... people should work together... and when they do, it gets done much faster... like teamwork".

How is it that they always know when to say something that actually makes you think and question the situation?

In a Nutshell; the lesson that I learned that day is: If everyone pitches in and helps out, a messy job does get done much quicker.

About the Author:
Originally from Colorado; now residing in Alabama. Hal is married and has a son. Hal loves the outdoors, especially snowboarding and plays ice hockey on a weekly basis...and of course, always learns from his son.

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