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Dogs, Babies, and the Process of Learning to Generalize

The other day, the baby lurched clumsily across the floor to our large bag of dog food, from which she usually successfully extracts two or three pieces of high-quality low-residue kibble a day. This time, she paused and scrutinized the illustration on the front. She touched it, and said: “dawwwwww?”

Yes! we said. Dawwwwwwg.

She looked confused. Then she walked to the bed and craned her head up until she made eye contact with our actual dog. “Dawwwwwwww?”

Yes! we said. Dawwwwwwg.

And then she went back to the bag, and hugged it. And we were all THIS IS HOW MALCOLM MCDOWELL FELT WHEN HE ENTERED THE NEXUS IN STAR TREK: GENERATIONS.

So, here’s the thing. We talk a lot about the problems of over-generalization. There are a bunch of them! I don’t think I’ve ever said “under-generalization” in my life, yet we all have to weather it while we learn which things are the same as other things. There are dogs and dogs and dogs and dogs and dogs, and a noob to this world would not necessarily believe that a wolfhound is a chihuahua is a Great Dane, but they are, like many prickly or soft or peel-y things are fruit, and we all figured it out, and it’s no less amazing just because it was a while back, so good for you, knowing which things are fruit and which things are dawwwwwwwgs.

And that’s what being a parent is like right now, and, conceptually, it’s pretty neat.


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