A Lesson Learned

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
A nonfiction piece on memories that build character.

Submitted: November 09, 2013

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Submitted: November 09, 2013

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A Lesson Learned

I give a lot of credit to those writers who can remember minute details about growing up at the age of three or earlier.  I am not one of those fortunate individuals whose memory spans as far back as being in my crib and having vivid memories of people “oohing” and “aahing” at me.The first major memory I do recollect with some clarity and truthfulness is of my attempt to steal a toy from my preschool classroom and my mother’s reaction when she caught me.

I was a shy child.  OK, maybe shy is an understatement.  Painfully shy would be a more appropriate term.  Sweaty hands, heart pounding, and forgetfulness of what I was going to say in front of the other children was my modus operandi.  So, it was no surprise that when I found a toy or two that I absolutely loved to play with in preschool, I wouldn’t or couldn’t always work up the nerve to ask someone else if I could have a turn.  So I would wait and wait to play.  Sometimes, my turn would never come.  My preschool teacher had these rubber bendable characters that were fun to play with, the little goofy man in overalls being the best one, in my opinion.  She also had this wonderfully small and fuzzy white dog that came with its own brush and cloth doghouse.  I loved dogs.  I adored them.  I so badly wanted my own dog, but I received a resounding “no” on more than one occasion, so I resorted to pretending this dog was my dog.

After one particularly frustrating day of being unable to play with my favorite toys during play time, I did something drastic.  I was wearing overalls to school that day, the old corduroy ones with a front pocket, and I hid the little bendable man in there.  He was much easy to confiscate than the stuffed dog.  I left for home, feeling excited that I would finally have some time to play with him, and only slightly guilty about taking him when I knew he wasn’t mine.

At home, when my mother changed me out of my school clothes, she found the toy in my overalls.  Immediately recognizing that it was not mine, she questioned me about the toy.  Where did I get it?  Where had it come from?  Did I take it from school?!  I can still hear her voice rising when asking me the last question.  I saw the anger and the shock in her face, her eyes looking wildly at me and her face reddening with the questions.  I hung my head in embarrassment and shame.  Although I tried to protest and explain the “why” of my theft, watching my mother’s reaction made me realize a very important thing:  I had disappointed her and that was something I never wanted to do again.  Ever.

My mother scolded me with appropriate punishment, taking the toy away from me and giving me a “time out” to ponder my actions.  The biggest lesson she taught me, though, was in our discussion of the event.  First, she told me that she would need to tell my teacher, which I vehemently opposed, as my teacher was such a lovely, sweet lady.  Then, she offered me the option of telling the teacher myself, which seemed more appalling, but then I had time to think about which one of us would make the better informant to confess what I had done, my mother or me?  Finally, however, my mother’s greatest lesson, the one she continued to reinforce in my life for years to come and that still rings in my head to this day, was the lesson of the “golden rule,” or treating others as I would like to be treated.  That concept ran deeply into my core, as I thought about how I would feel if someone took something of mine that I cherished deeply.  I completely understood what she was trying to tell me.

The next day, my mother and I met with my teacher to discuss what I had done.  I couldn’t hide my red face and tears from her, either.  But, she was as sweet in discipline as she was in her love for her class.  She accepted my apology and offered me a solution to my playtime dilemma.  She allowed me the opportunity to take home my favorite toys after school, one at a time, if I would approach her and ask to do so.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune from such a bad situation!The grace and positivity she showed me encouraged me to build confidence in speaking up to ask for things, as well as instilling a desire in me to not take something that wasn’t mine because of how it would affect another person.  My mom’s reaction to the established solution was just as inspiring.  I wanted to please her and I resolved to follow the morals she was trying to teach me.

It has been many, many years since I was in preschool, and seven years since my beloved mother has died, but I have never forgotten those words from both women who taught me to think of another person in the midst of my decision-making.  Rules are rules for a reason, and the “golden rule” is one I have tried to follow daily because of its far-reaching consequences.


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