Perception is Reality

“I’m mad at Miss Teacher. She always makes me come in from the rain last.”

I look at my young son. He turns five in a month. F-I-V-E. He is timeless like my sister, always thousands of years younger than reality. He has ideas now. He has opinions. He is wrong a lot.

“I don’t think that sounds right, Buddy.” I look at him in the rear view mirror. “No! It is! I was upset because my best friend gets to come in and shut the door and I have to stand out in the rain. Miss Teacher said that I have to be last and I have to stand in the rain before I come in.”

Obviously I know this is not right. It can’t be. This same teacher he is speaking of is the one who soothes my young son when I don’t meet his unrealistic expectations of picking him up every day right after lunch. She’s the one who tells him I am at work, I still love him, but I will come as soon as I possibly can. She’s been in our lives for five years now: two children through preschool. She knows us. We know her.

She’d never make my son stand in the rain last.

But the story is repeated over and over. “NO! She SAID I had to stand in the rain while everyone else came in! She lets us all come in at the same time on a sunny day. But not when it’s raining!”

I sigh.

Suddenly I remember my boss from a few jobs back: it’s been twelve years now. TWELVE YEARS. I hardly believe it. His words still ring in my ears at times, “Perception is reality!” he used to tell us.

He was speaking as a services manager. If the client perceives a problem as urgent, their reality is such that it is urgent regardless of what we know is fact. As technical minded people, we tend to look at problems as a flow chart: There’s no judgement, there’s no feeling. It is a flow chart of yes and no: Does your computer turn on? Are all the cables plugged in? Can you ping google? These are things people don’t think of. Instead, people think in terms of their own reality: “MY PAPER IS DUE AT 1:00 AND MY MACHINE IS BROKE.”

It’s not really reality, but it is their perception of reality and so, in essence, it is reality.

I reflect on this as my young son tells me of his reality. It’s so far from actual reality. It’s not anywhere near truth. It’s so far from factual. But to him, it is his life.

Children are so great at teaching us a million things: They teach us to wash our hands because they come from a daycare/preschool of people coughing. They teach us to appreciate our lives because change happens before we can even quantify it. They teach us to laugh because we forget too often how funny farting is.

But children are really terrible at one thing: Seeing the world the way an adult sees it. And maybe that’s not even a problem. Maybe the real trouble is that we, adults, can’t see the world more like a child can. But if some bitch was telling me to stand in the rain while everyone else went inside I’m sure I wouldn’t just say, in a calm voice later, “I’m mad at Miss Teacher.”

Maybe their world isn’t so bad after all.

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