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The shopping lesson

Teachings of a Child

by Hal Evan Caplan
September 3, 2011

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The shopping lesson

My child is my teacher and he certainly has a way with his lessons. I am very amazed by his ability to sneak lessons into any situation. He is very good at this and it happens often. I've said before and I'll say it again. I have no idea when I?m in the middle of a lesson. That is why he is the teacher and I am the student.

Each year we do our best to go on vacation just before school starts, sort of a last little break, if you will. When possible, our goal is to go to the beach before school because we prefer to go when there are less likely to be crowds.

Because we have an extended family member who owns a motel just off the beach in Panama City, Florida, we are fortunate enough to get a great "rate". Usually our vacation is... "not long enough". That phrase immediately comes to mind, but what I was really trying to say is our vacation is anywhere between 4 days to a week.

My teacher loves the beach and loves to swim. As you can imagine, his main objective is to swim as much as possible. Did I mention the motel has a beautiful pool? No, well it does. The day is usually split into several categories, the beach, eat lunch and time spent at the pool and "other stuff" as he perceives it.

Swimming and building sand castles is his main objective. Basking in the sun on the beach is not even an option. My teacher does not get this concept. After a period of time spent at the beach during the morning hours, we usually head into the motel to get some lunch. After lunch and with the proper amount of time for our food to digest, he loves to finish out the day in the pool. Notice I didn't say "at" the pool, but rather "in" the pool? It's an odd phenomenon, each year during our time at the beach; my teacher turns into a fish because that is all he wants to do - swim... period. We have to pry him away from the water in order to seek out other adventures.

Sometimes the late afternoon and early evening is filled with activities such as visiting the wild life preservation, the State Park or even hiking the nature trail. Usually we see alligators during this hike. Don?t get me wrong, it?s not as if we see them on the trail, step over them, and keep going. We spot them in the water. However, there are no fences or barriers for that matter stopping them from coming onto the pathway.

These activities usually tire us out and the heat certainly is a factor as well, but needless to say dinner is part of the equation as long as there is enough time for swimming in the pool, again, afterwards. Like I said, my teacher turns into a fish.

During this year's vacation a certain TV series aired the entire week we were at the beach, and I actually can't believe we watched it, but each night before bed our eyes were glued to the TV during our wind down period. The Discovery Channel airs "Shark Week" each year. Yes I know what you are thinking. Just for the record while we swam in the ocean, my wife would constantly be on the lookout. First of all the water was crystal clear and second, we would not go out very far. Okay you got me, 100% because of TV series is why we didn't venture out into deeper waters.

My wife had been very adamant and persistent about ensuring proper amounts of sunscreen applied to our bodies. The ironic thing here is she got sun burned, not my teacher and not me... no comment. Because of this she wanted to take a little break and head out to the shopping area and find some beach wear.

We decided to walk around the stores on the strip. My teacher saw a store that he wanted to go visit. Because it was not a toy store, I was good with it. The store was an outlet Crocs store. If you are not familiar with Crocs, they are shoes basically made out of a very light and tough rubber material. We entered and he began to look around. He actually found some crocs that he really, really wanted. He got his shoe fetish from his mother. She has a million pairs of shoes. That is certainly an exaggerated number, but it didn't seem like it and that is another story for another time.

Just a few stores earlier, we purchased a custom airbrushed t-shirt. During the time the t-shirt was getting airbrushed, my wife and I expressed that he would not be getting anymore items. He agreed as he marveled over his soon-to-be-new-shirt as he watched the man create his master piece.

Because he loves Crocs, he wanted to just go in and just "check it all out" as he put it. Just as quickly as he entered the store, he walked right back out. I stood there looking around the store until I noticed him standing just outside the front door of the Crocs store, starring back at me. I walked outside to join him. At that moment I thought something was wrong. What I did not know was a lesson had already been set into motion and it was only a matter of time before I realized that.

"Why did leave the store?" I inquired.

"Because." He uttered.

"I thought you wanted to look around the store?" I probed.

"That's the problem." He pointed out.

"I not sure I understand." I admitted.

"I couldn't stay in there." He stated.

"Ok, I am confused." I claimed.


"Are you okay?" I wanted to know.

"Yes." He immediately responded.

"Well, can you please explain why you came back outside? I mean you only spent like thirty seconds in there." I recapped for him.

"Dad, I would have wanted all these shoes I knew I couldn't have, so it didn?t make sense for me to stay in there and look around." He explained.

"Wow, I am so proud of you for thinking like that." I beamed.

Just then my wife walked out of the store with a confused look on her face.

I turned to my teacher and asked that he tell his mother the reason why he walked out of the store after only being in there a short while. She had a concerned look on her face. I expressed to her that the reason was not a bad one, but to brace herself for the answer. Shaking my head still in disbelief, I listened to my teacher explain to my wife why he had to exit the store so abruptly. She too expressed how proud she was with the decision he made.

In a nutshell, the lesson that I was reminded of that day was: Just because you want something doesn?t mean you will get it, so don't tease yourself by looking in the first place.

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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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