Relaxing on a lounge chair, my Kindle in hand, my children splash and play in the pool which overlooks the turquoise ocean touching the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize.

A small smile curls my lips, contented with the peaceful way in which my children are getting along.

There are a few disagreements here and there, but for the most part, their play is happy and under control. I'm aware of the older couples lounging at one end of the pool, but certain that the splashing and noise level are within reason for pool time play in mid-day, I return to my reading.

Atlas is toddling around the pool side, and Greg follows him close by to catch him should he topple in.

Ahhhh… All is right in my world.

I serenely read the words of Charlotte Mason, who says, "the more [the children] run, and shout, and toss their arms, the more healthful is their play," when out of the corner of my eye I notice one of the women from the far end of the pool walking in our direction.

Without looking up from my reading, I hear her say to Greg, in a voice of feigned tolerance, "You know, we don't have a problem with the kids, but the noise level… really. Can't you control your kids?"

I'm the first to admit that there have been times when my kids have been pretty wild and rowdy, disobedient, defiant, and downright loud. But this is not one of those times.

They are, however, being children. They get excited about small things, they splash and jump and occasionally whine when a toy is taken. But their noise level is in normal decibel range for children playing in a pool in the middle of the day. Did you want them to whisper? This isn't the library.

There's nothing they are doing that seems disorderly or worthy of being disciplined. What I'm I supposed to say to my kids, "Hey don't make any noise while you're playing? Don't talk while you're in the pool?"

So I continue with my reading, and Greg continues overseeing Atlas' play. You can't discipline children for being just because someone has a difference in perception.

Several more minutes pass, and I'm lost once more in my book, when I become vaguely aware that the old man across the pool is yelling something. Without looking up, I open my ears enough to catch parts of it…

"…water in my coke…that chlorine will ruin our drinks…outrageous!"

I continue with my reading. I'm not going to get flustered because of others outbursts.

But in a few moments I realize that Greg is over there exchanging some words with the man. Apparently he had been yelling at Greg about the kids splashing, and Greg had gone over to 'work it out.'

I can't really hear what's being said, but I can see that it's heated - at least on one side. Greg rarely loses his cool, that's one thing I love about him.

There's yelling and swearing, and finally one of the women who had been dangling her feet in the pool gets up to quiet the roaring geriatric.

"Calm down," she tells him, patting him on the chest "It's apparent he [Greg] doesn't get it. It's not the children's fault. It's poor parenting."

Meanwhile, the kids are oblivious to any disputations, and are happily jumping into the pool with as much gusto as since they arrived.

Greg asks the boys to go play at the other end of the pool. Kimball asks why, climbs up once more and jumps in before swimming to the shallow end.

"See, you can't even control your kids," retorts the peanut gallery.

I feign indifference and continue with my reading, as though parental insults are hurled at my husband everyday.

Greg calmly walks away, and gathers the kids around him quietly by the edge of the pool. He's whispering some instructions to them, and I catch a few words "…you're not in trouble…play at this end…or get we can get out…"

Soon the kids are climbing out, Greg is gathering belongings, and I follow lead, dying to get into the condo where we're staying (with our friends the Kings) to find out what was said.

Once inside, Sabina King and I get the 'low down'. Essentially it unraveled like this:

The kids were jumping in the pool. The jumping splashed water in their rum and coke. This finally resulted in an outrageous yell, directed at Greg.

Greg suggested they talk to each other like adults and work it out. The man preferred yelling, swearing and insults, as well as a few threats that he was 'about to get up out of his chair, and then it would get ugly.'

Meanwhile, the gray-haired companion of the first women who had, according to them, "asked nicely for our kids to be quiet," now puts in his two cents.

"My kids aren't acting like that," he tells Greg.

You mean the two teenage kids over in the corner who are glued to their video games? Those kids?

You are seriously comparing our 'real life' participating 9, 7, 6 and 5 year old to your 'reality disconnected' teens? Seriously?

Believe me, my kids would be just as quiet as yours if they were glued to some reality robbing device, instead of actually experiencing existence.

We have a lovely time discussing and dissecting the entire experience, and analyzing the revelations in human character.

"It's always shocking to me when grown, 'mature' adults still haven't learned how to master their own emotions," Greg remarks.

"What's funny," he continues, "is that as we left the pool, two middle-age sisters from the Midwest said to me, 'I think your children are beautiful. They add a lot of life. We'd way rather have them here than grumpy old people."

We thought that was the end of our encounters with human nature, but during the coming week, two more 'human experiments' ensue, providing fascinating insight into behavior and character.

The kids (seven total counting the King's two children) spent a total of about 1-2 hours per day in the pool - usually mid day when the sun was the hottest.

We didn't let them go out in the morning, because we knew others would be sleeping. By evening, we were all getting ready for bed. We thought this plan would work well for respecting the other residents and tourists, usually older retirees, whom I'm sure were unaccustomed to having seven children around.

For the most part, we went about our lives on the island - cooking, eating, walking, exploring, shopping, and occasional swimming. We weren't aware of any major impact our seemingly segregated lives was having on others… until an email was received.

"Your commandeering of the pool, and the constant noise level has created chaos in my life…if I know how much longer [the Dennings] will be around, then I might be able to stick it through, though I've already arranged a meeting with management to discuss the matter."


Two hours a day (or less) of kiddie noise at the pool is creating chaos in your life???? Two hours of playing in the pool each afternoon is considered commandeering? Maybe you assumed we were taking over when we planted the pirate flag? Don't worry, it was all in fun.

Planting the pirate flag didn't mean there was a mutiny of little people.

I'm baffled by this attitude that I haven't seen for over four months. In Mexico, you just don't get bothered by other peoples noise, no matter how much you may not like it.

I certainly didn't like Mexican music being played all night long, or dogs that bark for no apparent reason and without restraint. I don't like roosters that crow at 3:00 a.m.

But being exposed to it didn't cause chaos in my life. Maybe an occasional sleepless night, but chaos? Mayhem? Pandemonium? Inner turmoil? Uh, no.

Inner peace comes from within, not from the noise level of children. Believe me, I know. If I waited for peace and quiet from my kids before finding inner solitude, I'd be verifiably insane.

And sorry, but I've already left the tribe. I'm no longer threatened by the threat of 'authority' or 'management', just like I'm no longer threatened if my brother says he's going to tell on me. I've outgrown that.

If I was worried about what the authorities thought, would I have avoided sending my kids to school, and left the United States to travel with them in 'dangerous' countries?

Why is it human nature for us to run to 'authority' - mom, the teacher, the principal, the HOA, the police, the government - to solve our problems? Can't we work things out on our own? Human being to human being?

This was the rowdiest things got all week, and that was daddy's fault.

  'Course, maybe Sabina was the real cause of all the noise 😉 She's having too much fun.

We thought that would be the last of the encounters regarding our children's behavior, since we would be leaving soon anyway.

We were having a lovely time on the island with our friends, but we needed to get back to 'reality' and the mainland where our truck was parked.

The afternoon before we left we were enjoying the pool one last time. The grumpy tourists had already returned home, and things had been resolved with the emailer.

As is his custom, Greg had struck up a conversation with someone new at the pool. I went over to join them after awhile.

We had a lovely little chat with a pleasant and amiable woman originally from England. We talked about all sorts of interesting topics.

Then as she turned to leave, she bid us farewell and a good journey, and added, "You know, some children are just so horrid and rude, but yours are so good-natured and well-behaved. They're really quite lovely."

In that moment, I more fully realized, that the comments made regarding my children's behavior has less to do with how they were acting, and more to do with the nature of the individual making the comment. It had more to do with the persons perception of reality and 'the way things were supposed to be.'

It was the same children, the same behavior, four different and unique responses.

Their responses do not define my children as either 'good' or 'bad', 'obedient' or 'disobedient'. But it did define the person who was commenting - either as 'tolerant' or 'intolerant'; good-natured or bad-tempered; patient or complaining. Their comments were revealing of parts of their own character, even if they were made at their 'worst' moments.

I suppose that's why James Allen has said that "Circumstances do not create the man, they only reveal him unto himself."

Yes, we all have bad days and bad moments when our worst comes out, and it doesn't mean that we're like that all the time.

But I must own that even at my worst, it's still me, (even though I'd like to blame my horrid behavior on the wicked witch that commandeers my body on occasion.)

If I don't like how I act or what I do when I reach my 'breaking point' then I need to change, not blame the circumstances (or the kids).

I am who I am at my best and at my worst. And if I don't like the me at my worst, then I've got some work to do.




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27 Responses

  1. Carol Kaatz

    Insightful and well written. Love those little ‘undisciplined monsters’!! haha!

  2. Catherine McCabe

    As I’m sure you know from my name, I am person who sent email to Sabina and Keith.

    My best guess, from the way you have mocked me and my turmoil in your post, is that you are blissfully unaware how your actions have negatively affected those around you.
    While you had 3 tourists tell you that your children were lovely, I (as an owner) had 5 times as many seriously haranguing me to do something about the noise.
    The day after you commandeered (great word, btw) the pool, another tourist informed me that they were leaving to stay elsewhere even though they had paid in advance for 3 more days at Oasis…and were going to leave a negative review of our property.
    Unbeknownst to me at the time, at one point when the activity was apparently at a peak, a real estate agent and his clients came on into the courtyard and immediately turned around and left. It turns out that the agent was representing my friend’s condo and had emailed my friend to report on the ‘showing’. My friend then contacted me and suggested, if I couldn’t handle the situation myself, that I should go to management.
    So, while you were able to blithely focus inward and decide that you and your family were the victims of intolerant, bad-tempered, complaining people, I was forced to deal with the real world chaos, a chaos that I freely admit to being woefully emotionally ill equipped to deal with…likely because in my almost 60 years, I have never, ever encountered any circumstances that even come close to what had been created around me.
    Since you have freely shared what you ‘know’ about me, I’d like to let you know what you have taught me. I have learned that people who think that they are special(for whatever reason) don’t look outside themselves to see the specialness in others. That some people who choose a lifestyle that includes ‘leaving the tribe’ fail to see that the very people they condescendingly describe as ‘trapped’ work their asses off to provide them with the bourgeois amenities like condos, pools etc. that they avail themselves of. That people who proclaim themselves to be ‘inspirational’ spend hours dissecting the flaws they perceive in other’s characters. That some people who believe they on a ‘journey of discovery’ write derisive, sneering words when they think that the objects of their vitriol won’t see them.
    Empathy is a gift. I sincerely hope you can give it to yourself soon.

    • Rachel

      Hi Catherine,

      I never knew the name of the person who sent the email. My intent was not to mock, but to learn – for my own benefit. That’s why I write. I’m no one special, just a normal person that is pursuing a lifestyle that is meaningful to me. I also recognize the unique passion and interests of all people, and respect them. I don’t dissect the flaws of individuals (hence, no names), only the flaws of human nature – which include my own.

      We never felt we were the victims of anything – just observers of human behavior.

      And yes, I never imagined you would read my post, because I never knew who you were. I wasn’t writing about you, because I don’t know you. I’m writing about the principles, and what I learned from the experience – detachment, tolerance, respect, self-improvement.

      I am empathetic to our own weaknesses as human beings. The same day I wrote this post, I went ‘crazy’ due to the chaos my kids were creating – even while we sat in paradise on a beautiful beach in Placencia, Belize.

      I just ‘lost’ it, yet I kept thinking about the post I had just written, and I knew that ‘losing’ it wasn’t my kids fault. It was my own.

      I’m the only one who has control over what goes on in my head, and what happens there determines how I interpret and handle reality. As my husband likes to remind me, we don’t lose control, we give it up.

      I don’t blame anyone for acting the way they do – we’re human, after all. But I do try to learn from it, by dissecting principles, not people.

  3. Claude

    As a father of two young children who have been travelling more than two years, I so connect with your story. We get it all the time – from both sides: people who are not tolerant and complain/criticise and those who think our children are wonderful. They can’t all be right. Sometimes we (and I am often guilty of this) kids being kids is difficult to deal with. But seriously what can you expect at a swimming pool? Like you said, the problem often isn’t the kids but the person complaining. The noise isn’t from the children but rather what’s happening inside the complainer’s head. Thanks for sharing your story. It just reminded me to be more patient and accepting of my own children and that they are often doing what’s really natural to them. In a restaurant or library I could see the nice to calm them down, but not a pool.

    • Rachel

      Thanks Claude,

      You make a great point, that as parents we need to be a little more accepting of our kids being kids, which can be difficult when we’re with them all the time. 🙂

  4. A King's Life

    Nice job Rachel at capturing the incidents. I will agree with you: I am to blame. I’ve been told that I smile and laugh to much. There must be something wrong with me, but I’m just not willing to change it. I hope it is genetic and am sure that my children will inherit this trait too.

    Oh, to infect the world with more smiles and laughter. Darn. 🙂

  5. Lisa Wood

    I still cant believe how rude the adults were – in front of children! Its funny how we “See”things differently from person to person.’
    My boys are very loud, yet they have fun while they are swimming – I am sure that is what swimming pools are for!

  6. Kirsty

    These kind of reactions make me laugh! I love that you stayed so calm about the situation – well done! I teach my kids to behave appropriately to the situation we’re in, but I could never be a “children should be seen and not heard” parent ever in a million years!! I suffered something similar one time because my daughter dared to laugh loudly on a plane – seriously!!!

  7. Alicia

    There are truely some narrow-minded people that simply don’t like children… or the noise children make! Living here in Mexico (and comparing it to my old life in quiet Germany) its really amazing how parents permit their children to be children, to scream and play… and noone ever comnplains, even in restaurants! I think you are great parents for traveling and playing with your children and allowing them to have fun, to play, to make some noise. I really think it’s bad parenting to “park” your kid in front of a TV or video game, so he or she is quiet… and I don’t think this is healthy behaviour. So please, don’t get bothered by this kind of people, just enjoy your time!!

    • Rachel

      Thanks Alicia, I agree with you. Kids should learn respect and appropriate behavior, but there’s definitely a time and place to be loud! (Like at the pool). 🙂

  8. Christina @Interest-Led Learning

    I’ve encountered many similiar situations with my kids. They are on the loud side, especially my son, but I think they seem all the more loud because most kids their age have been told to be quiet, sit still and don’t move so many times by now, that they’ve just given up. And you’re right about the attitudes of the people making the comments. It’s taken a while, but I finally don’t cringe inside when my kids are louder in public, or ask a million questions when we’re standing in line to check out of a store. I don’t care as much what people think. And it’s a very freeing feeling.

    • Rachel

      That’s awesome. Way to go. I think despite our unconventionality, I still cringe sometimes – like when we go to a mall in Mexico, and I look at my kids and think, “Wow, you look like orphans.” I cringe wondering what others might think, but then I realize that they look they way they do because they’ve been playing and having blast all day, and I’ll never see these people again anyway, so what does it matter? 🙂

  9. Karen

    I LOVE this post, Rachel. Had sooo many experiences like this at my mom’s condo pool, with complaints of splashes on the mirror wall. But realized it wasn’t anything to do with our dc. Most of the complaints are from people whom I think need to Get a Life!!

  10. Camella

    Such a lovely post, and SO true!

    I think the first few reactions remind me of why I avoid tourist-laden places like Ambergris Caye! 🙂

    But it’s wonderful that you didn’t let it fluster you and that you allowed your kids to be kids.

  11. Nicole Schuman

    You really are having fun! You know, kids will always be kids no matter how hard you discipline them. Good thing about you is that you just let them be once in a while.. 🙂

    • Rachel

      Very true. Kids are people, and as their parents, we teach them, but we can’t control everything they do 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  12. Kathy Jo Fyten

    Hi Family..It is I KJ from Chicago. It was such a pleasure meeting you all at the Oasis. Your children are beautiful. I will be keeping tabs on your travels. For those of you who keep up with this family but have never met them personally I would just like to say that they inspirational, kind, and a joy to share a pool with! My sister and I were down there to celebrate a milestone birthday and we were fortunate enough to stay in the same condo building. We saw the children playing happily everyday (until some short tempered tourists ruined everything. Seriously, how do you get angry when a child playing and laughing in a pool are splashes pool water in your rum & coke? Isn’t the rum & coke supposed to be making you happy? LOL.) What a great sense of independence and life lessons you are all getting. I will think of you guys often, pray for your safety and hope that all of your travel dreams come true. Best to all of you!

    • Rachel

      Thanks Kathy!

      We enjoyed getting to know both of you. Thanks for visiting our blog and commenting. Keep in touch!

  13. Cley

    Hi Rachel,:)
    You have perfect a image of family, I really missed those beautiful activities together with my children and husband for a couple of years, how I wish this vacation we can get together like this.. 🙁

  14. Ty

    I have no dog in the fight but I couldn’t help but wonder what type of life someone has led when they comment:

    “likely because in my almost 60 years, I have never, ever encountered any circumstances that even come close to what had been created around me.”

    Kids playing in a pool for a couple hours a day is the pinnacle of the pain you’ve experienced in your life? If that statement is true then I think you’ve led a pretty charmed life.


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