Reality is Perception: The Pool Incident

“Great job Greyson!” I proudly exclaim as my 3 year old son has overcome the fear of jumping in the pool and going under water. He’s been watching the Denning boys jump and swim all week and has found the courage to do it himself.

“I did it, Mama. I did it and I wasn’t scared!” I’m giddy with excitement and fulfilled with his pride of accomplishment.

We’re having a great time by the pool with the Denning family, who have come to visit us on Ambergris Caye. They are traveling from Alaska to Argentina with their 5 children in a vegetable oil powered truck. The past week with the Denning family has been wonderful. We have talked about travel, futures, pasts, business, blogs, religion, ideas, photography and educational values. Both of our families have chosen to step outside the proverbial box and live life on our own terms, in our own direction, yet we have similar core values that we are decidedly passionate about. We spent most of the time talking in the condo, feeding children and playing in the pool.

Location: the Pool

We have a beautiful pool in the center of our condo complex that is perfect for children. With seven children between us (ages 9, 8, 6, 5, 3, 1 1/2 and 1 1/2), we were quite a troop!  We spent time in the pool every day, usually twice a day for a half to one hour each time. It is the perfect place to relieve bounding kid energy and soak up the beautiful sunshine.

I get my underwater camera out to snap a few fun shots below the surface. The children pose, do handstands and jump from the edge, so I can get some fun photos.

Kyah's effervesce shows in the pool as she jumps in.

Kyah’s effervesce shows in the pool as she jumps in.

We are laughing, splashing, jumping in and out of the water, diving down to get rings, playing games, using floaty rings to float and generally having a ball.  We are also making noise: laughing, joking, and splashing. Who could blame us, right? It is a pool after all and we felt it was appropriate.

This is Chaos with a capital C

Fun in the pool, or so we thought!

Or so we thought.

It was interesting to see the reactions we got. I want to be very respectful to the people that gave these reactions, so of course I won’t use names, that’s not the point anyway. I just want to illustrate the mixed bag of reactions and what they reveal. We spoke with all of the following people, so, with respect, here are the reactions we received from the seemingly simple act of letting our children play at will in the pool.

The Reactions

There are no facts, only interpretations. ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Reaction 1:  A tourist renting a unit in our complex came over to tell us “You know, we don’t have a problem with the kids, but the noise level… really. Can’t you control your kids? My children aren’t acting that way.” Her much older children were doing computer work by the pool and wanted to concentrate. (In reality, they were actually playing video games). We felt a little rebellious not quieting our children, because we felt their play was at a respectable level for children playing in a pool.  This angered the tourists even more and they proceeded to yell obscenities at us from across the pool about “splashing water in our rum and cokes”. Greg, who remained calm and amicable, went over to speak to them, but they threatened him with a brawl and personally insulted us as parents saying “Well, we know now that it’s not the kids fault, they can’t help it with such *** parents!”

Reaction 2: A set of middle aged sisters were vacationing and watching our children play and also witnessed the above situation. They stated “I think your children are beautiful. They add a lot of life. We’d way rather have them here than grumpy, old people”

Reaction 3: This reaction came in the form of an email that stated how our children playing around angered this person. She was “sick of the commandeering of the pool and the chaos that has been created in my life. If I can see an end I can put up with it.” The email also threatened us with a meeting with the management of our condo complex and our landlady to discuss the issue.

Reaction 4: “Your children are some of the most well behaved children I’ve ever seen. What you are doing (traveling with them) is one of the best things that you can do with them”

My snarky reaction to each one:

1: “Hmmm…who’s being childish now, threatening to beat us up because we splashed you? Really. Comparing our young children having fun in the pool with your distant, technology engrossed teenagers, seriously?”

2. “Thank you…we like people that like us. All children (and adults) need time to play and have fun, sometimes that means with passion, loudly.

3.  “Really, we didn’t feel like we were infringing. We didn’t create the ‘chaos’, you created in it your own mind. Also, regarding the threat of authority…I’ve already stepped outside of the box in most aspects of my life and don’t subscribe to the conventional authoritarian threats. They just don’t intimidate me anymore.”

4: “Thank you, they really are awesome kids and your words are encouraging.”

"We aren't loud underwater!"

“We aren’t loud underwater!”

Our Perception

The kids were being loud, but not overly so to us. They were having fun and we could see how it could be disruptive to people that aren’t used to it, but the kids were only in the pool for a total of 1-2 hours during the day and we thought that to be acceptable. It left plenty of quiet time for reading, relaxing and sunbathing for others. A pool is a place for them to expend their energy and this wasn’t an adults only pool, it was designed for kids. We thought their behavior and ours was acceptable.

Having traveled and lived in several countries, our tolerance level and acceptance of others’ differences has grown tremendously. It has had to, or else we too could be bitter, entitled people. Cultures are different, every single person is different. In the US, if a dog was barking all night, neighbors would probably call animal control. In Costa Rica, dogs barking all night is perfectly acceptable. In the US, loud, blaring music is not tolerated, especially from neighbors. In Mexico, it is viewed as a celebration and no one thinks twice about it.

These things still annoy us, they can interrupt our plans, our sleep or our much needed quiet time, but they don’t upset us. We simply respect the differences and adjust.

As we left the pool to go inside, we started to discuss the reactions and what they revealed.

Your Perception becomes Your Reality

The above reactions showed us the differences in the perception of situations.

The situation was the same for all four people:
Our children were playing, splashing and having fun in the pool.
So, what was the difference?

The difference lays in the perception of the situation. The interpretation. The mental lens that is used to filter what we see, hear and do.

The fact was that our children were playing. To some it was acceptable and to others it was aggravating. Each viewed it through their own lens, internalized it to be positive or negative and through their own mental filter created the reality that they reacted to.

We do this in every situation of our lives. The filter that we choose creates our reality, our emotions, our reactions, our habits and ultimately adds up to create the life that we choose for ourselves.

Thumbs up or down? What's your perception?

Thumbs up or down? What’s your perspective?

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein

Since reality is subjective to our perceptions, our reality reveals our character, ideas and thoughts that we have inside. Our actions reveal who we are, it doesn’t matter the situation, it matters how we respond. We reveal a part of ourselves in our actions.

Trying to create Zen in the pool

Trying to create Zen in the pool

Travel expands your perceptions

Travel expands your perceptions, your tolerances, your support of people. Why do we have to battle the differences among people? One of our goals for ourselves and our children is to become global citizens, aware, tolerant, and accepting of others. At times, it seems that the human race is in a downward spiral of angst, anger and violence because we cannot accept others’ differences. If we are to stop the spiral (in the world and in your own mind) we have to change our thinking and I think travel can do that. (Perhaps I’m being dramatic, but perhaps not).

A final note…

Your perception is your reality, but it may not be the reality for others. If we can remember that our reality is just a narrow perspective, we can support each other instead of simply tolerating each other.

So, next time there is exuberant laughter and squealing at the pool, it may just be my little boy conquering his fear and enjoying the delight of doing it. And I will probably be loudly encouraging him as well, so either put on your ear plugs or smile and enjoy.

More on Perception…

Are you really sure that a floor can’t also be a ceiling? ~M.C. Escher

Relativity 1953 Lithograph by M.C. Escher

My apologies if I’ve offended anyone, but I really enjoyed thinking about this and using it to illustrate that not one of us was right or wrong in this situation, but our behaviors clearly revealed a part of our character.

Rachel Denning also wrote a post on our experience being guinea pigs in a human behavior experiment .

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17 Responses to “Reality is Perception: The Pool Incident”


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