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The Athletic Shoes Lesson

Teachings of a Child

by Hal Evan Caplan
January 21, 2012

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The Athletic Shoes Lesson

My child teaches me on a regular basis. Sometimes these lessons are shocking because of the magnitude of the lesson itself. Because I am his pupil, there is no time timetable associated with his lessons. Basically, I am blindsided at any given moment because I have no idea when the lessons will be taught.

The goal of parenting, for the most part, is to raise our children in a manner that is a reflection upon us. That outcome is certainly different for each one of us. For my wife and me it is that our child matures into a respectful, loving, caring, confident person with a good head on his shoulders... just to name a few traits I hope for.

I don't feel that my wife and I spoil our son. He is an only child - because of that - some people might think otherwise, but I'm pretty certain he is not spoiled. The November through January holiday period only happens once a year, obviously (stay with me, I'm trying to illustrate my point here). During that time, my teacher asked consistently for me to buy him this, that or the other. Each time he asked, I was quick to point out the holiday season was rapidly approaching and would be here before he knew it.

I was very surprised by the conversation that I had with my teacher at the beginning of the holiday season. The topic very much caught me off guard. Maybe he's growing up before me and I hadn't recognized the change first hand. Don't get me wrong, obviously I am quite aware that he is growing and getting older - it's the mental growth I'm talking about here. I guess I'm just excited to see that the positive things my wife and I instill upon him actually do sink in... at least some things.

Out of the blue, my teacher approached me about wanting some new athletic shoes - okay, sneakers if you will. I explained to him that he would have to wait until a later time. He had several pairs already and I knew this was not a pressing item or one at the top of the list.

"Dad, I really need new shoes." He started.

"I know for sure that you have a few pairs of fairly new sneakers already." I brought to his attention.

My teacher then began to describe a specific kind of athletic shoe to me. When I used the term sneaker, he quickly explained that a sneaker and an athletic shoe are NOT one in the same. O...k...a...y, I thought to myself.

"It has great support for my foot, it is very comfortable, it has this cushion like a shock thing in the back and it looks very cool." He described. I seriously had to wonder if my young child had a job at the local shoe store. I mean, he was being quite the salesperson here.

Okay, if I had to guess, I'm sure several kids in his school had this very shoe and this shoe was the chatter of the hallways, if you will. Last month it was a certain type hair style, this month, it's the shoes. If my calculations are on target, then next month will be the "widget-thingy-ma-boob". I may have guessed this stemmed from school, but what I didn't know at the time was that my teacher had started the lesson and I was about to be in the middle of it, like it or not.

"So, you say this sneaker - excuse me - athletic shoe is comfortable, hugh?" I began.

"Oh, yea... very." He quickly replied.

"How do you know that, if you don't own a pair and have not had them on your feet?" I concluded.

"Well, my friends that have them, told me." He explained.

I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. Insert 100 points here for guessing the correct answer.

"We are not going to buy you another new pair of shoes right now. You can wait until your other shoes get too small and we can go from there." I claimed.

He shook his head as if he understood. I could tell he was thinking. The wheels in his head were certainly spinning. He walked into the other room and began to pace back and forth. This went on for some time before he approached me again. I was sitting in a chair reading the advertisement insert for Home Depot when he appeared in front of me and began.

"Dad, I"d rather you take some of the presents you already got me back to the stores and instead buy me the new shoes." He voiced.

"Seriously?" I sputtered.

He took a deep breath. "Yes, I'd rather have the new shoes that I really want in place of toys I don't really need." He struggled to say.

"Wow, I am totally blown away that you even said that." I admitted.

"Why do you say that?" He probed.

"Oh, I just am." I remarked as a smile appeared on my face.

"But it is the truth." He exclaimed.

"You totally understand what you are saying here, right? I mean, a few of your holiday gifts that mom and I bought you will be returned to the store." I reiterated.

"Yes, I know, I'll ask mom take back a few presents." He mumbled.

"Again, WOW, I am so proud of you." I expressed.

"For what, dad?" He asked.

"Well, that is not a typical request from a child. Asking their parents to take back holiday gifts, toys to be exact, in exchange for some shoes." I replied.

He paused for a moment. "Well, how many toys do I need anyway, right?" He recognized.

"I would agree. I'm just surprised that you are not trying to convince me to actually keep your gifts and to get you new shoes as well. That takes a strong young man with really good will power to ask your parents to return toys that are already here in the house. Actually, the toys are already wrapped just so you know." I remarked.

"Well dad, I don't want to be greedy anyways." He conveyed. Then without saying another word, he went upstairs in search of his mother in order to explain the new arrangement. Shortly, thereafter; my wife walked halfway down the stairs, peeked her face from around the corner and asked if we were really considering doing this. I simply nodded my head, and answered, "Yes". Just as I was answering that question, I heard my teacher yell the same answer from upstairs, which echoed through the hallway.

In a nutshell, the lesson that I was reminded of that day was: Being greedy is not an attractive trait, but rather a very ugly characteristic.

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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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