This is a nerdy, probably boring post. Let me start out be saying I am not “academic”. Geeky, yes- Smart,no. I read US Weekly, not Time. Nevertheless, a recent project deadline has brought out my inner nerd.
There she is!
For my class next week I have to give a presentation on B.F. Skinner. On a side note, for someone like me, this is horrifying. I am not shy, but I can’t stand public speaking. Standing in front of a group and saying, “Hi my name is Hillary and I like to watch TV” makes me sweat. Now, as I was saying, I have been working Wikipedia, learning all about Skinner. Let me tell you, that man was a stud. I absolutely have a brainy crush on Skinner and I was way too excited when I snagged him for my presentation topic.
Anyway, Skinner worked with pigeons. He put them in an operant conditioning chamber (i.e. “box”) and gave them food at completely random times. Well, wouldn’t you know, those germy little birds became superstitious, doing whatever random actions they happened to be doing when they received food. The pigeons began spinning, bobbing, weaving and bouncing their heads in the belief that this would result in food acquisition.
(For some reason, the dancing pigeons remind me of Michael Jackson. I couldn’t find a picture of a pigeon doing the moonwalk, but here’s a picture of a pigeon that looks like it could maybe, possibly be dancing to Thriller.)
Fascinating stuff, right? It keeps me up at night. Literally. Early this morning the dog woke me up with his disgusting snoring and I started thinking about this experiment (dork!). I began thinking, we all have our superstitions. Maybe black cats don’t scare you and Friday the 13th is just a good movie, but, in some way, we develop our rituals.
Motherhood has brought on some raging rituals for me. Not quite a year and a half ago, I remember standing, sleep deprived, with a screaming boy in my arms. Nothing would calm him, until, all of a sudden, he would stop. The key here is, I had nothing to do with this. However, desperate as I was, I clung to the idea that I could somehow control his crying jags. So, just like a pigeon, I developed the following rituals: when burping him, my patting had to be perfectly rhythmic, lest I offend his senses. When my sweet boy was sleeping in a bassinet next to our bed, I absolutely believed that he would sleep better if I was on my stomach facing him (apparently the sound of my heartbeat was muffled in this position). When he was a little older, shopping carts had to be lysoled, then wiped- this absolutely saved him from the bird flu. And don’t get me started about not using a suction cupped placemat at restaurants. Yes, I became a superstitious, high strung Momzilla.
Thank goodness I’ve turned a corner and now know that no matter what I do, I cannot predict and can hardly control a single thing that my son does. Free, free, I’m free at last! I have seen how foolish my rituals were.
But….if you’re ever around during snack time, always give him at least two crackers at a time (he will flip if he doesn’t have one for each hand), keep all the doors locked (any day now he’ll learn to open them and will try to move in with the neighbors) and if it’s nap time, don’t even think about setting foot in the upstairs hallway. He will wake up.