Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Quantified Baby Temperament Theory

I'm back at work, and, you know, quantifying things. Looking at graphs and data and stuff. Then going home and playing lots of Peek a Boo and singing endless rounds of Old MacDonald. (It's pretty pathetic when you can only think of like five farm animals. It leads to stanzas like "...and on that farm he had... even more pigs...." Also, our farm tends to have seals, because I do a great "Ork! Ork!" seal impersonation.) Anyway, the juxtaposition between work and home has been twisting my mind in weird directions lately. Leading to my Quantified Baby Temperament Theory.

All babies, depending on whether it's a good day or a bad day, have the innate capability to bring about these two opposite reactions from people of a certain age who are not the baby's parents:

Reaction 1: Oh, look how cute! We should have a baby!!!
Reaction 2: Holy crap! Let's never have kids!!!

Reaction 1 is otherwise known as the Procreation Reaction; Reaction 2 is the Birth Control Reaction. Even the most colicky baby in the world will have moments of extreme cuteness and cause the Procreation Reaction, and even the very best baby can have a fussy day where they can make outsiders have the Birth Control Reaction. But by keeping a running average of how much of the time a given baby deserves the Procreation Reaction instead of the Birth Control Reaction, you can assign a quantified measurement to the baby, which I will call his Cute/Crap number. A reasonably well-behaved baby, for instance, might score a 75 on the Cute/Crap spectrum (75 C/C). A more colicky baby would probably be down around 15 or 20 C/C. I also think that some babies probably hold steady at some number for long periods of time, while others would, for instance, raise their averages over time, as they outgrow the crying and start to smile more. (My understanding is that almost all kids' numbers drop when they hit the Terrible Twos, which tends to bring about an abundance of the Birth Control Reaction from outsiders.)

LL seems to be causing some rather serious "baby fever" among our friends lately, and I can only think of a small handful of times when he has cried enough to make people run out and buy condoms, so I think he's probably around 80 or 85 C/C. I explained my theory to S, and he gave LL a score of 90 C/C. But we're probably biased. LL's cold did cause his C/C number to take a bit of a hit, but he's been such a happy ball of sunshine ever since that he has more than made up for it.

I'm tempted to ask our friends to give their own children an estimated C/C number, but I have a hunch that not everyone enjoys reducing babies to numbers. Particularly numbers with the word "crap" in the metric. Some people take this whole parenting thing far too seriously.


  1. I'm laughing so hard right now that I hardly know what to say. I suspect Jillian would score pretty highly on the C/C scale given that she behaves quite well in public at least.

    Now you just need an experiment to test this theory. Do I see a journal article in your future???

  2. I love it!!!! What a great metric :). Seriously, I love it.

  3. That's pretty great! I think that's an excellent measurement.

  4. Oh i am so laughing! This is good quality stuff!

  5. Awesome theory.

    An added variable: the strength/quality of the baby's cuteness (or crapness). Harry inspires especially forceful baby-mania responses due to his very big smile and laugh, enough to offset a quantity of fussiness that might otherwise inspire a birth control response. (And I've had friends whose babies' crying was especially earsplitting, enough that even a small amount of it would inspire any non-parent to run to the drugstore.)

  6. Oh that is such an awesome metric. Monkey was definitely high on the c/c factor when he was younger. I think he is probably >50 for most people, but man is he good BC for me! More due to his high energy levels, but still.


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