My youngest daughter is leaving the baby stage of life and is pretty much into the toddler stage now.
She likes to get out the bath and run away from a towel wielding parent, leaving a trail of tiny wet footsteps on the hall carpet. We laughed the first time she did it, so now she thinks it’s funny and does it on purpose. Every time.
I was recently observing the chaos occurring between my wife and two children – I could have been more helpful and flanked the baby as she ran off, instead I tried to work out the maths behind how much “trouble” we cause each other as a family.
Assuming a normal, healthy adult’s behaviour creates a standard unit of trouble (T), which can be defined by generally doing low level annoying things (incorrect dishwasher loading, leaving clothes lying around) and the occasional big thing (smashing a wing mirror, leaving the washing out overnight, tissues in the wash) then I’ve come up with the following formulae (which are all from viewpoint of one of the adults in a couple)
trouble = bother = T
number of adults = A
number of children = C
excitement factor = E
A couple – T
To an adult, the amount of trouble you have to deal with is simply T, it’s tolerable, mostly fine, sometimes funny and if you’ve had a bad day can be rectified with alcoholic beverages and/or chocolate.
Single child family – T + T2
So adding a child to the mix, doesn’t just double the trouble, it increases it by a power. Kids are incredible, no matter what rules you try and lay down – they find creative ways of not being naughty, but still colouring in all your furniture.
Multiple children family – T + Tc+1
This is where it starts getting dangerous – the wet footsteps lead me to this scary conclusion.
As I was putting away the pop up tunnel, my daughter was getting out the doll pram. In the meantime my wife was taking dirty nappies down to the bin whilst my other daughter had emptied the dressing up box too look for her keys…
Each action a child takes tends to have a knock on effect (often quite literally) on the surrounding area though, so 2 adults can’t deal with 2 children. They set off chain reactions, and then feed those back into each other. It’s an infinite feedback loop.
In order to empty the pen box all over the living room floor, the sofa cushions needed to be thrown to the side and the jigsaw boxes had to come crashing to the floor of course. Whilst one child has done this, another will need to fill the dolls pram up with junk and walk it into a different room… making it impossible to tidy the first mess up without chasing the pram full of crap first!
It is at this point that all hope is lost, the maths has taken over, you have to laugh at as much of it as possible, blame your partner as best you can, make sure none of the children are trapped between/behind/inside things, and wait for them to go to sleep and tidy it all up when the sun has gone down.
But wait… there’s more.
Family come to visit… AT + E(Tc+1)
When people come to visit, there’s the excitement factor. This is variable: cousins or school friends visiting is probably a 2 or a 3; grandparents set this high, like a 5; Christmas visits are a solid 10, maybe even 11 if it’s snowing.
So depending on the split between adult and child visitors, and how exciting the purpose of the visit is, this can cause complete destruction of your house.
An extinction level event for sanity and tidiness – which can only be rectified with a few days of TV box sets, junk food and early nights.
Hopefully though, with the use of the above calculations to predict the expected level of trouble – sufficient planning and preparation can be made to survive any sized family event, from 2 people to all the generations.
Just to be clear, the trouble is worth it – I’ve never laughed as hard as I have at my children. Yes, I know I should be proud of them, cherish my time with them, give them all the opportunities I didn’t get, and I’ll do all that nice stuff.
But seriously, kids are just funnier than anything else. Plus, they still think I’m amazing.