How to conduct a scientific experiment on your child

In many ways children are ideal subjects on which to experiment – they’re compliant, small, and easily influenced. Understandably, sometimes people, with their ethics, frown on this kind of thing.

As a child, I found a clever way around the ethics – I experimented on myself.

I stood on the end of rake to see if the handle would whack me in the face (it did). I climbed into a wooden barrel and rolled myself down a hill to see if it would be funny (it was…I’m told). And I ate just about anything I was dared to eat (nettles, straight from the bush, were always a crowd pleaser).

Having done all this and more, and grown up to tell the tale, my own kids are relatively safe from the consequences of my inquisitive mind.

When the seven-year-old was the two-year-old, however, we had a scientific experiment thrust upon us.

It is still in progress to this day.

At a family gathering, all those years ago, he needed a wee. We found one of those little downstairs toilets some people have under the stairs; essentially, a small cupboard with a toilet and a tiny sink.

The boy did his bit, washed his hands, and we turned to leave, only to be met by lock failure.

Mechanism malfunction.

Two people trapped in a cupboard.

We banged and shouted, and sensed a gathering of family and friends on the other side of the door. Sniggering and laughter was heard. Jokes were cracked.

After some minutes and a couple of mild rescue attempts it was settled: “You’ll have to kick your way out…we’ll stand back…away you go!”

The boy was delighted.

I felt some pressure, but it’s not often you get a consequence-free chance to kick a door down. The boy, touchingly, had no doubt that I could do it.

I’m daddy – of course I can kick a door down.

I took a three-foot run-up and booted the door at lock height with all I had. To the onlookers, my foot appeared through the shattered splinters of door like Jack Nicholson’s face in “The Shining.”

A second kick removed it from its hinges.

I cannot lie: it felt good.

The two-year old jumped on the spot and clapped like the delighted toddler he was, his face alight with pride at his dad. It was a beautiful moment. It also became the focal point of an otherwise uneventful family party.

And ever since, once every two or three months, when we have a quiet moment, he says: “Daddy…do you remember when you kicked the door down? It was great wasn’t it?”

And therin lies the experiment.

Most of us, when pressed for an earlier memory, can dredge up some incident as a five or six-year old. Some of us think we can recall younger memories, but what we actually remember is a photograph.

The question is, can my boy can carry the memory of a two year old, if reminded regularly of all it’s door trashing detail, into adulthood?

Interestingly, his brother is also in on the experiment, and often brings it up himself: “Hey,” he’ll say, “daddy kicked a door down once didn’t he? I remember that.”

As it happens, he was unborn at the time, but how am I supposed to explain that to him?

So, I’m running a parallel experiment known as the “foetal memory hypothesis.”

The results of that one could be ground-breaking.

(Image: via


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