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The T-Shirt Lesson

Teachings of a Child

by Hal Evan Caplan
April 16, 2011

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The T-Shirt Lesson

My child is my teacher and I am taught lessons when I least expect it. Day or night, rain or shine, cold outside or hot outside, it doesn't matter. The time and place when these lessons appear is not important to my teacher. I have no control over when the lessons present themselves. That is why he is my teacher and I am his student.

My wife and I trade off when it comes to putting my teacher to bed. On this particular night it was my turn to put him to bed. I informed my teacher that he needed to hurry up and get moving since it was a little past his bedtime. Each night he has what I call two separate sets of rituals that he performs before his head touches the pillow.

The first set of rituals consists of my teacher changing into his night time clothes, taking his asthma medicine, going to the bathroom and brushing his teeth. The second set of rituals actually takes longer than they should. This set includes my teacher saying goodnight to my wife (or me depending on whose night it is to put him to bed) and searching out where our two cats happen to be sleeping at that time.

Once he finds them, his goal is to say goodnight to them in his own special way. This is not as simple as it sounds however. He lays next to them, talks to them in his "cat" voice, and strokes their fur until they purr. This goodnight mission really only works with the female cat. The male cat can only handle this for a short period of time before he bolts out of there.

Of course the two cats are rarely sleeping in the open or even together. Basically, a small game of hid-and-seek ensues. Actually, since the cats are not playing this game, I should really call it what it is... "seek" or even "cat-seek". Sometimes this takes a little longer than usual. My guess is that the cats have figured out this nightly routine and they try and hide in more difficult locations throughout the house in order to not get disturbed. In the end, my teacher always finds them.

Since the first set of rituals were finished, I walked upstairs and waited in his room while he performed the second set. As I waited, I turned off his room light and sat in my reading place on the floor. This spot on the floor is an ideal place because the nightlight illuminates that specific area and makes it easy to read to him.

As he entered his room something caught my eye on the back of his shirt. I didn't think anything of it and figured because I was sitting mostly in the dark; my eyes had played a trick on me. He then climbed into bed; I again noticed something on the back of his shirt that caught my eye.

"What is that on your shirt?" I asked.

"Nothing." He replied.

"Well I saw something white on your shirt." I explained.

He looked all around the front of his shirt and then the sleeves. Next, he turned his head to one side and did his best to look at the back of his shirt. He then turned his head to the other side to do the same. Because he didn't see anything out of the ordinary, he shrugged his shoulders and laid down in his bed.

I knew that I was putting him to bed for the night, but what I did not know at the time was that I was about to learn another lesson. This is a perfect example of the fact that I am completely unaware of the lessons that I am to learn from him... most of the time at least.

I had to get to the bottom of this unidentified item. So, as I moved in to give him a kiss good night, I asked him to sit up so I could get a better look at the mystery "thing" that caught my eye. Once I was close to him, I realized it was a tag hanging out the back of his shirt. I then noticed something was not quit right with his shirt. It took me a minute but I finally realized his night shirt was inside out.

"Do you know your shirt is inside out?" I pointed out.

"I know this." He declared.

"Is that on purpose?" I questioned.

"Yes." He replied.

"Ok, just so I'm clear, you already know that your shirt is inside out, right?" I indicated.

"Yes, I do know this." He acknowledged.

"Ok, do you want to explain why you have your shirt inside out?" I probed.

"Well, I got tired of the tag being so itchy." He responded.

My eyes glazed over and my mouth dropped a little as I listened to how he solved this little problem.

"Wow!" I grinned.

"Having my shirt inside out the tag won't bother me while I sleep." He continued.

"What a great idea." I retorted.

"Thanks." He remarked.

"Where did you see this or learn about this?" I asked.

"From me, I figured it out." He informed.

"Wow!" I repeated. "I am so proud of you."

He hugged me and laid back down positioning himself in his "comfy spot" as he calls it. As I began to read to him I thought about the little problem he had and how he solved and just shook my head.

In a nutshell, the lesson that I was reminded of that day was: If something is not working out to your liking, change it or rearrange it so it does.

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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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Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke,
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