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The Time Lesson

Teachings of a Three Year Old

by Hal Evan Caplan
March 5, 2008

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The Time Lesson
The Time Lesson_Hal Evan Caplan-Teachings of a Three Year OldMy three year old son is my teacher. The lessons that I learn from him aren't limited by clocks or by time zone. My point is, I learn from him no matter what time of day it is or no matter what part of the country we happen to be in. As usual, I am taught these little life lessons when I least expect it.

Traveling can be stressful, to say the least, especially with a three year old on a long plane ride. My wife, my teacher and I took a trip to Sacramento, California to visit my sister, brother-in-law and cousin. My mom coordinated this effort since she was already there visiting my sister and her family, and we all felt it would be fun to have a little family get together.

One of the most challenging things to deal with is the time change...especially across several time zones. There is a two time zone difference between Birmingham, Alabama and Sacramento, California. Our goal was to keep our three year old on Birmingham time so we would continue with our normal schedule. Our thought was this would make it a lot easier for my teacher...and once we returned home, things would be normal. That is a lot easier said than done.

However, once you say it out loud, it really sounds crazy. Allow me elaborate. My teacher goes to bed at 8pm and gets up at 6am Central Standard Time; that's Birmingham's time zone. Now skew those times by inserting a trip to California and Pacific Standard Time. 8pm CST becomes 6pm PST and 6am CST becomes 4am PST. That means in theory, in California, my teacher would be going to bed at 6pm and waking up at 4am. Therefore, the time he would be slated to go to bed would be the time we would eat dinner, and I didn't even want to think about the time he would be getting up in the morning.

I tried to have a conversation with him explaining the time change and the times that he would be going to bed and getting up in California.

"You understand that we are going to California, right?" I asked.
"Yes." He replied
"When we are in California, you will be going to bed at 8 o'clock, Birmingham time." I continued. "Than means that it is 6 o'clock California time."
"But I don't go to bed at 6." He expressed.
"I know you don't go to bed at 6, but because of the time change it works out that way." I explained.
"I don't like that time change thing." He announced.
"But that's what time it is in California." I explained.
"Well, just change it back." He requested.
"You see, I didn't change it, California is on a different time zone." I clarified.
"Well, tell Aunt Annde to change it then." He suggested.

I could see this was going into a never-ending circle and nothing was getting accomplished. I finally just told my teacher that once we were in California, we would just work it out, and the next day we headed for the airport. During our drive to the Birmingham airport, I expressed again the change of time and how he would be going to be and getting up on our home time...not California time.

Luckily, during our travels there were no delays and the plane changes went smoothly. Once we landed in California, my sister and mom met us at the baggage carousel. We loaded my sister's car with our bags and she drove us to their house. All the while this time-zone thing was on my mind and getting the best of me - mainly because I noticed that my teacher appeared to be a getting a little sleepy.

But once we arrived at my sister's house, my teacher perked right up and got his second wind because he learned very quickly that they had a dog...plus they were dog sitting another dog. So, he began playing with the two of them. To him, I became a blur in the background. When I tried to convey the time that he would be going to bed, my teacher simply agreed and went on with his business. I'm sure he just said that to please me...because the two dogs had his undivided attention.

Then his cousin came home from school and my teacher got his third wind. They played together until dinner time. After dinner my teacher alternated between playing with the dogs and his cousin. My teacher didn't show any signs of being tired. Again, I tried to discuss my idea of my teacher going to bed on Birmingham time. He agreed, but didn't slow down one bit. I had this vision that at any moment, I would find him passed out, asleep, in some random room of my sister's house.

The clock read 8pm California time and he was still going strong. We got him ready for bed, just to be prepared. Around 9pm he finally expressed that he was tired. At this point, I expected to put him to bed. What I didn't expect was to be taught a lesson at this time, but as I've mentioned in the past, my teacher's lessons don't have time stamps on them.

As my wife and I put him to bed, he whispered in my ear.

"Dad, is it already 6?" He asked.
"No, it's way past that time." I chuckled.
"Is it my bedtime at home?" He asked.
"It's past that time, too." I answered.
"What time will I get up?" He asked.
"Who knows? When you get up is when you get up." I said as I threw my arms up and shook my head.
"Okay, I'll see you then." He mumbled as he drifted off to sleep.

As he lay there sleeping, I realized that I did know this lesson, but I obviously had to be reminded...and my teacher did just that.

In a nutshell, the lesson that I learned that day is: In certain situations, things will go much smoother if you just go with the flow and allow yourself to be a little flexible.

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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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