Location, location, location

The Atlantic has an interesting piece on how much direct influence parents have. The research tells us not as much as we like to think. So, don’t beat yourself up too much for every small decision that in retrospect seems like a mistake with a child. Nor boast too much about how great your child fares. Your genes and parenting aren’t likely to cause too much success or failure.

The neighborhood one chooses to live apparently means much more to future education and salary for a child. Certain cities are the best and neighborhoods within them the best.

Three of the biggest predictors that a neighborhood will increase a child’s success are the percentage of households in which there are two parents, the percentage of residents who are college graduates, and the percentage of residents who return their census forms. These are neighborhoods, in other words, with many role models: adults who are smart, accomplished, engaged in their community, and committed to stable family lives.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, The One Parenting Decision That Really Matters, The Atlantic. May 7, 2022.

Realtors really need to start selling on percentage of households with two parents, residents with degrees, and Census return rates.

my neighborhood from Chris Dlugosz

The article mentioned a pretty cool tool called The Opportunity Atlas. I found playing around with it interesting. Based on parent income, Black race, and Female gender, Fleur can expect an annual income at age 35 after growing up at different familiar places to me:

  • our current address $46K/yr
  • where Ada lived before we met $50K/yr.
  • the house where I grew up $34K/yr
  • the house where my cousins lived $20K/yr
  • the neighborhood in the next county over where a coworker brags about the schools can’t predict because there isn’t enough data.

Should she be White passing race…

  • our current address $63K/yr
  • where Ada lived before we met $56K/yr.
  • the house where I grew up $66K/yr
  • the house where my cousins lived $61K/yr
  • the coworker’s neighborhood 55K/yr.

The 17K difference based on my current address and different races is startling, but so is the lack of a difference not far away. Even more so the 41K difference in my cousin’s neighborhood.


Brain games: Where’s the doll

Fleur does her part to keep me brain healthy. Whoever is the current favorite doll, not having that toy is a meltdown event.

She can go to school without the doll because she understands they are not allowed at school. However, she expects to have the doll at pickup.

We finally are at the sweet spot where she sometimes leaves the doll at home with the understanding I bring it with me to pickup.

That puts the onus on me to have it. And remember to get it. And remember to find it, and put it in my car ahead of time so that I will have it at pickup.

Thing is, it will be in random places.

  • Fleur’s bed.
  • The doll crib.
  • My bed.
  • The bathroom counter.
  • The kitchen table chair.

At first, when I discover it in some unexpected place, I rant about why she cannot just keep it in the same place and save everyone the trouble. But, then my psychology background kicks in and I remember this could be good for my brain health. This is “Where’s Waldo” for adults. Non-repetitive thinking challenges are what helps the brain. Every time I go looking in the places where I remember Fleur was last, then I end up accessing the hippocampus to pull up a mental map of the house and consider whether or not she was there to assess whether or not to look there. If I still have not found it, then I start thinking about hide-n-seek places. All of this is challenge territory.

I probably should look into other things, but I need more spoons.

When Fleur gets upset about the missing doll, I advise trying to make sure she keeps it in the same place. However, I have no expectations of this happening any time soon.

Trading War Stories

Got a “Nice shirt” comment from a guy in the grocery store. He looked vaguely familiar. I asked how he was doing as he had that look of… fatherly rough.

Photo by Mark Neal on Pexels.com

He pointed down the aisle to his wife and daughter. And said they had emergency dental surgery this morning. They were playing last night and the kid fell into the dollhouse and chipped a tooth.

I traded that story about last week Fleur had a stomach bug, so she stayed home from school. She was better by 10 am, but that just meant I was home alone with her going stir crazy and hyper. Couldn’t take her to the park because she might still be contagious.

We were like two veterans of a combat zone sharing stories about The Suck. “Oh, you think that bad? Check this out…”

Scarred but not yet broken.

String Theory

I have a teeshirt from a friend. It portrays a cat playing with a ball of string. It says “String Theory Research.”

Fleur asked: What does that say?

So, I read it. It didn’t register, so I started to explain:

Everything we touch and feel are made up of these teeny, tiny so small no one can even see them strings…

She changed the subject.

This interaction reminded me of a saying that if you cannot explain something to a 6 year old, then you do not really understand it. Some claim Einstein said. He said a certain topic was not teachable to undergraduates. Feynman was closer in saying if can’t explain in very simple terms, you don’t understand it.

25 years ago, I did some work in a classroom assisting the teacher. After teaching the Solar System, she lamented that I wasn’t doing Elementary Education because I was gifted at helping others understand. Others have said similar.

I love to explain things. So Fleur will roll her eyes. But some things will get through.

Ambush predator

Domesticated cats are not great ambush predators anymore. Mama cats don’t teach their kittens the skills.

I knew a few great ones in my life. Winnie would hang out in the middle of the yard below a power line. Mockingbirds and Blue Jay’s would hang out and screech, “Cat!” Over and over and over. Then get brave enough to dive. She act intimidated, which encouraged them to get closer. And then when they got close enough, she attacked and knocked them out of the sky. We found a few at the door every year.

Booker T’s owner kept a kill spreadsheet for all the things he brought home. She locked the cat door to be able to determine what he brought as he came insude after the baby snake.

We had a mouse and our cat didn’t even play with it just watched. The same as she does with insects.

With the two new kittens, there is a lot more play. Mostly, they lay in wait for one of the other two and attack.

I like to pick them up when they are waiting on ambushing another one. That gets the loudest protests.

And, I am teaching Fleur to use ambush tactics to get ahold of her kitten. Cats weren’t apex predators, so they are skittish around things like children who are loud and scary. Anyway, my hope lies in giving her the tools to hunt him down instead of being upset he isn’t in her lap. As a result she will stop being loud about it.

Social development

I love watching Fleur work through challenging behavior with others. It reminds me how much more I need to work on myself.

Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com
  • Spending time with her older cousins, she doesn’t accept their unfair behavior.
  • She used to just cry. A year ago, she would tell me “no, sir!” Or sometimes just cry. Now often she has the vocabulary to tell me after getting over the crying. We have work to do getting to the point of expressing the need instead of crying. Baby steps.
  • There is also this sense of not wanting to disappoint us. So, when she does something wrong, she experiments with deceptions. Some of my favorites:
    • The stuffie did it.
    • The stuffie told me to do it.
    • It was her cousin.

There is also the good:

  • Organizing play dates. When Fleur and Lyra (the best friend from the Friendship post) get picked up at the same time, they emerge from the building, they tell both parents their plan. It might be dinner or the park.


Ada took Fleur to the animal shelter because they had an adoption event. She was specifically interested in one named Hawkeye.


Funnily enough, she ended up not being large enough to get spayed, so Ada opted to bring the whole litter home with us. So we had four kittens for a month.

Through that ordeal, Ada fell in love with one and Fleur with another. So, we gained two.

Hawkeye and Hulk went on to a new home.

During their time with us, the big cousin Sophie started calling Hawkeye: “Hawkboy”. Okaaaay. Fleur picked up on it too. I gave up trying to correct them when it became clearer she wasn’t going to stay with us. It was wrong for a couple reasons:

  1. Wrong sex
  2. Wrong comic universe (Hawkeye is Marvel.† Hawkman is DC.)

† The Hawkeye television series passed the mantel from Clint Barton to Kate Bishop.

Classical conditioned

We have kittens. A mistake I have noticed is how we fed them. By preparing their food at the same spot in the kitchen, they associate movement to that spot with feeding them. So come running. At least 10 tines a day.

The adult cat associates feeding with the sunroom where we have her stay overnight. Originally that was because we needed her not to wake us in the middle of the night. This was intentional behavior modification to make it easier to get her settled. She makes clear she wants food. I go to the sunroom.

Of late, she resists because she prefers the kitten food. So, I give her treats… in the sunroom.

Most people associate Pavlov and his dog with Classical Conditioning. The salivation is a great image and story.

Game: Keepy Uppy Bandit

We know the game about keeping the balloon off the ground as “Keepy Uppy” due to the show Bluey. The father’s name is Bandit.

Photo by A.J. Spearman on Pexels.com

Setup: The same as traditional games of this sort. Inflate a balloon.

Action: Someone puts the balloon into the air. Each person hits the balloon back up into the air to keep it from touching the ground. The more acrobatic the better. Easy mode: control the balloon with soft hits so the other person can also controlled hit it.

In the episode, Bluey complains about it being too easy, so Bandit makes it harder. Fleur likes to make it harder by hitting it where I am challenged to keep it from touching the ground. Sometimes she transitions to Hard Mode after half an hour where other times she gets there after a few minutes. Sometimes she announces the change with “I am Bandit” while other times I figure it out because she’s started making it hard.

Anyway, she makes it more fun.

Baby is a four letter word

Fleur doesn’t like my pet name for her: Baby. It earns an instant protest about not being a baby.

My mother claims to Fleur that I am her baby. Taking in this information became a game changer. Until recently, Fleur rejected even that.

She slowly but surely has come around to accepting that she is and will always be my baby.

My other argument is when she asks me to carry her, I remind her that babies get carried. So as long as she wants to me to carry her, I get to call her my baby.

Baby steps.

See also: Help is a four letter word