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To understand anything about a sample you have to know how variable it is. Is everyone close to the average? Are people all over the place? Are there just a few data points that are crazy? It’s the cornerstone of experimental social science. And other kinds of science, I hear.

One of the joys of Baby Hoarding is getting to observe the variability in my own sample. My adorable little data points are fairly close to each other for some behaviors, like sleeping well and being awesome.

But there are other places where they are highly variable, like how driven Bunlet is to figure out how things work, including inconvenient things like door knobs, and how much Bun Bun loves being read to and how much Bunlet only wants things pointed out in the pictures. A particularly salient case is the floor bed.

When Bun Bun was about 16 months old, we moved her from her crib to a floor bed: She slept great. We figured we’d gotten her at just the right moment, so YAY US! We are the smartest. When Bunlet was about 16 months old, we tried a floor bed for him. His favorite place on earth is Bun Bun’s bed. He loves nothing better than to be tucked into it, so surely he was telling us that he was ready! I mean, Check It. Is this baby not ready for a bed?


Disaster. He was ready for a bed…HER bed. And she was not willing to share. After finding him exhausted and sobbing in the laundry basket I gave up. Not ready! No problem. We’ll try again later. But what was most striking to me is the fact that she never realized she could get up, and it was immediately apparent to him that he could. (Of course, the obvious explanation is that she was alone in her room, whereas he saw her getting up, so he realized it was an option. But he also saw her lying there compliantly, and he did not choose to imitate that behavior.)

The variability is amazing, and it’s also humbling. I mean, I don’t think I’m a SUPER smug parent. But yeah, some times I was pretty pleased with my awesome self. I like to experiment, and when something works, it’s natural to see causality. And now I have to face the fact that when something works, it may not be the result of my brilliant parenting. I always gave a lot of credit to luck. But maybe not enough to random chance.

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. I will say that, this particular point is one of the beauties of having twins: you get to see, in real time, how much of your children’s behavior is just who they are and what they choose vs. the effect your parenting is having on them. Because we are parenting our two boys pretty much the same, and they are often acting quite differently. . . just because they are two very different people.

    It can be both reassuring and maddening at different times.

    May 28, 2014
  2. Ha! Yes! This is awesome (and not just for adorable picture of your son and his fox). Even just six months into this parent-of-two-kids gig I’m amazed at the differences in the personalities of my two. And very aware of how much of my “success” at parenthood is really about luck/chance.

    May 28, 2014
  3. I’ve had my knowitall ass whipped seven ways to Sunday by the two delightful products of the same genetic pool. When I see new mums being all wise and knowitall at their turn after a few weeks into the parenting gig, I do not control myself anymore and just laugh out LOUD. Anyway.
    Now we’re in the phase when each proclaim that whatever the other is holding/reading/eating/distroying/ is for DOTH of them. Yet DOTH of them lose interest in the newly acquired item from their siblings in 0.2 seconds. But oh the whinge and drama until that moment…

    May 28, 2014
  4. I love these posts because they make me feel less bad about all those otherwise guilt inducing things Monkey does, like continuing to wake up many times a night. Because this reassures me that it is just him, and not anything I did/didn’t do.

    Also, I now require a post about how much hard work it is hoarding babies, since we appear to be falling on the non-hoarding side of the fence.

    May 29, 2014
  5. PS – you make super cute babies.

    May 29, 2014
  6. Ana #

    YES! It definitely smacked any remnant of smug straight out of me when L came along with his non-sleeping, non-eating, hitting/biting ass. B’s good sleeping/eating/behavior were clearly not due to my awesome parenting.

    May 29, 2014
  7. Yes! People in my sanctimommy exercise class credit themselves for their children’s inherent skills all the time. There are certainly things that we can do as parents to sway things a little, but that base personality is all their own. Love the reading bunlet.

    May 29, 2014
  8. HA! I love your analysis!

    My three data points share some similarities. My second data point also loves the first ones big bed to the point of tears (maybe it is a second child syndrome, we can plan on sharing data points in a few years to validate). The third one just eats all day.

    You always make me smile Bunny

    May 31, 2014
  9. (Ha, sanctimommy, that is flipping brilliant, so it is.)

    Lovely photo.

    The sample provided by a large family really blows my tiny little mind. One of my best friends is from a large Italian-American family, 6 siblings having 6 offspring going back over generations, and witnessing their parties was ASTONISHING to me, to see the genes at work. So many similar people, all variations on the theme, with these recognisable threads going through them. Like a big Italian-American tapestry, they were. We’re really just a tangle of DNA and environment, it would seem! Forces of nature at large! Not sure why I am so stunned by this, but I really am.

    June 1, 2014
  10. Follow up post: why the hell is this concept so difficult to grasp? It’s perfectly obvious to me that, for instance, The Bean is way over on a different part of the scatter plot from the kids that my former food principles work for, though I can tell that plenty of people with other kinds of kids don’t truly believe that. On the other hand, I’m sure I’m giving myself too much credit for probably dozens of things he does do well, like working independently and liking books and mostly not sticking his tongue in light sockets. I only hope I am allowed to keep some of these happy misapprehensions as his sister ages. Perhaps I will just resort to gender essentialism to save my ego.

    June 1, 2014
  11. SRB #

    I LIKE this, but you are too cool for a LIKE button, thus forcing me to comment. I see your game, Bunny.

    I kind of look at it as pure luck. I keep them alive, and they are awesome in spite of my very obvious failings as a mother/wife/human. Must be my genes, which I fully take credit for creating.

    June 2, 2014
  12. I have only one data point, so obviously I am still the world’s most intuitive parent and everything my genius child does is down to me excelling at providing just the right stimulus at just the right moment, every damn time. (I see that Bunlet’s rather bright Fox will soon be reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar to himself.)

    June 5, 2014
  13. theurbanjunglegym #

    With my first child, I was an amazing, intuitive, earth-mother and together we had such a gloriously nourishing natural symbiosis that I never needed to sleep train him and we just each naturally knew how to adapt to the other’s varying sleep needs and patterns. This is because I am (and he is) brilliant and better than everyone else.

    Still trying to figure out why this didn’t work with the second one, but a few nights of cry it out did the trick.

    June 11, 2014
  14. oh god, are your little data points EVER adorable. They are. I love them.
    I am in the habit of getting all smug about my awesome parenting, and that’s usually about 3 seconds before gummy does something completely against my PLAN, and then thoughts of my own awesomness melt like ice cubes in coffee. So, I hear you.

    June 11, 2014

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