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The Fire Truck Lesson

Teachings of a Child

by Hal Evan Caplan
June 2, 2012

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The Fire Truck Lesson

My child is my teacher. The lessons he teaches me may not always be the result of my involvement. Sometimes I learn from a distance. His lessons come in all forms and fashions and shapes and sizes... meaning the level of the lesson can range from a basic lesson to a complex lesson. Needless to say, I learn from my teacher on a regular basis. No boundaries apply, no time frames are present and like I mentioned the levels of the lessons can range. Some lessons actually happen when I least expect it. That I why he is my teacher and I am the student.

On the day of this lesson, a fire truck raced into the neighborhood with sirens a-blaring and lights a-flashing. My teacher wanted to see what was going on since the fire truck stopped next door to one of his friend?s house on the next block over in our Cul-De-Sac.

I was en-route home from work at that time and my teacher and his mother discussed the situation and agreed that he could go see what was happening for just a few minutes. Then, once he witnessed the situation firsthand, he was to come home. I know what you are thinking... "sure... right... now that is really going to happen." I admit, like most people, the sight of the fire truck in action (or at least with its lights still flashing) is enough to not only catch your attention, but capture your curiosity. Not to mention, little boys and fire trucks in general. I can't speak for children or little boys in general, but my son is ALL about fire trucks.

One time we had the opportunity to take a tour of our local fire department. It was a Cub Scout related event. The Fire Chief gave the Scout Den a tour and allowed the boys to climb up the back of the fire engine, put on real fireman gear and even allowed them to sit in the driver's seat of the fire truck. You want to talk about a handful of smiles, laughter and imagination taking place at that moment... wow. Anyway, back to the story at hand.

By the time I got home, he had been gone for approximately 20 minutes according to my wife. I really didn't have the full picture at that moment and my wife was having a difficult time explaining the details to me. All that I could really understand from the conversation ? if you want to call it that ? is that my wife was not happy that my teacher had not yet returned home per their arrangement. I could tell she was about to blow a gasket. I think she did too. So she calmly asked that I go and get him. Just for the record, I later found out my teacher had been asking for a lot of things and driving her nuts and continually calling out, "Mom this..., Mom that... Mom can we...". You see, my teacher had been out of school on summer break for only a few days at that point and it became pretty obvious that he became stir crazy.

Of course I did not see that what so ever, what can I say, I'm a guy, and to my defense, I was at work since it was business as usual for me. Not make things worse I figured the best thing to do at that point was to just listen to her request with no questions. So, I walked over and retrieved my teacher from his friend's house. When I arrived, he was playing with his friends and the fire truck was actually gone. Actually, I didn't even know it was there it was there in the first place until a later time. On the stroll back home he was not acting like himself.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"Nothing." He replied.

"Well you don't seem like yourself at the moment." I pointed out.

No response.

We filed into the house and immediately noticed his mother sitting on the couch. She had this look about her. She glared at him and then looked my way. Without saying a word, I immediately knew something was about to happen. Then she looked back at him with that same intense glare. He did not say a word and neither did she, actually. Without her asking anything of him, he sat on the edge of the living room chair and waited. I stepped back and leaned against the wall and observed. Apparently he knew she was upset with him. I understood he was about to be reprimanded, but what I did not know was that a lesson was in the making.

"We had a deal. Didn't we?" She reminded him.

"Yes we did." He responded.

"Why didn't you listen or hold up your end of the deal?" She questioned.

No answer.

"I am very angry with you at the moment." She continued.

Not a peep.

"Do you know why I am so angry?" She wanted to know.

"Yes mom, I do... because I made a bad choice." He answered.

"That's right. You made a bad choice. Because of your bad choice, I am taking away a privilege for tomorrow." She voiced.

She just looked at him and in turn he had a look on his face. She was still fuming and he had a crawl-under-a-rock-and-not-come-out kind of look. I could tell that he felt really really bad for his actions. He took a deep breath and after what seemed to be a long pause, he answered her with a reply that I certainly didn't expect at all come out of his mouth.

"I'm sorry mom. I was wrong for not listening and if you take away a privilege I understand because I deserve it."

I think my wife was caught off guard and a little stunned from his response. I have the feeling that she was about to let him have it, but his reply broke her concentration. She looked at me as if to say, "I didn't expect this". I mouthed back to her the word, "wow" because I too was taken aback. I knew she really wanted to let him have it, but this comment was a huge step forward and a positive one at that. She really wanted him to know his admission was the right thing to do. Since this was her situation, I didn't say a word so she could finish. I had nothing to do with the incident. However she chose to handle that situation, I was there to back her up.

"Wow, I'm impressed with your reply." She expressed.

"I was wrong and I accept my punishment." He stated.

"Thank you." She spoke. "Because of how you dealt with this situation, you are not in trouble and this will be a warning. Do not do that again! DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR!?"

"Yes, Ma'am." He uttered.

She slowly stood up, all the while keeping her eyes on our son as if to say, "don't push it". Then she walked into the other room. I pushed off the wall I had been leaning against and walked over to the chair where my teacher was still sitting. His face had this deep look on it; I could read it like a book. The look read, I was wrong...

"I'm proud of you for accepting responsibility instead of giving mom and excuse." I pointed out.

"Thanks Dad, but like I said, I was wrong." He admitted.

In a nutshell, the lesson that I was reminded of that day was: Take responsibility when you do something wrong and accept the consequences for your actions.

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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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