Monday, May 01, 2006

Schrodinger's Kid

Over the weekend as I was thinking about the parenting observation I made last week, I became aware of several other truisms about parenting and children (especially small children still in the larval and rugrat stages of development). These are mostly things I was aware of before becoming a father thanks to exposure to kids as an uncle, but became more acutely aware, and more introspective towards, as a parent -- namely these two: The more tired a child is, the more violently he will resist being put down for a nap; and the quieter a child is being, the more likely it is that they're getting onto trouble. I decided to express them as mathematical formulas.

The first is pretty simple: Ws=1/Ns where Ws is the willingness of the child to sleep and Ns is the need to sleep.

That second one is the trickier of the two. At first it seemed like simple Newtonian parenting: T=M/L, where T= The likelihood that the child is getting into trouble, M is their natural mischeivousness, and L is how loud they're being. But there is another variable here, and that's time -- it takes time to get into trouble (though not always a LOT of time). So I reassigned the variable L to represent the Length of time since you checked on them, and assigned V as the volume of the noise the child is making, and got T=(M/V)L.

But that's where Uncertainty and Superposition come into play. For starters, the value of M varies from child to child, and can even change for a given child, depending on mood, maturity, and how much trouble they got in last time. Furthermore, while it is true that as L increases, T approaches 1, you can never be sure that T has become 1 and the child really has gotten into trouble until you go check on them. Doing this, however, affects the outcome in a couple of ways: Like Schrodinger's cat, it fixes the value of T at either 1 or zero -- either they're in trouble or they're not. Secondly, checking on the child resets L to zero, and finally, if the child becomes aware that you are checking on them, this will alter their behavior (M).

There you have it, folks -- Quantum Parenting.

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