The psychologist BF Skinner put pigeons in a box to study their responses to stimuli. One cohort were given grain if they pecked a button and they quickly worked out the mechanism by which they were being rewarded. In another group, however, grain was dispensed entirely randomly, with no input from the pigeon having any effect. Rather than clocking this distribution as entirely senseless, Skinner found these pigeons instead contrived ever more elaborate patterns of behaviour to get the desired effect. Some walked in circles, others pecked at the walls, each thinking they had intuited some replicable method of attaining their desire. I think of that second group of pigeons a lot, pacing anti-clockwise round our bedroom, humming as I rub my son’s temple in a desperate attempt to get him to sleep.

The issue of sleep is one I’ve not really broached in this column since – whisper it – my son had previously slept quite well in his early days. We have friends with toddlers who’ve never slept three hours in a single block, so we know how obnoxious that sounds. But for a brief, exalted time that now seems to wave to us from a distant past, he did exactly that. And we held this like a shameful secret, fearing the magic of this particular arrangement would be broken if we said it aloud. Or, like Superman’s parents, feared our beloved Clark would be taken away from us so that his super powers would be studied.

But that was then. Now, we spend our nights pondering over the wisdom of evolution, to have made these small, delicate objects simultaneously so reliant on sleep and so bad at realising this fact. My son resists sleep so enthusiastically, I’m starting to think that being closely cuddled and softly shushed is, for him, roughly equivalent to taking cocaine.

One thing that does help is music. Partly to make it more pleasurable for me and partly because I’m the worst, I feed my son a steady diet of recursive ambient music by people who sell tote bags at their gigs. Autechre’s Vletrmx21 is one of my favourite songs, now slowly curdling in my brain from applying it several times a day like an antiseptic scrub for his waking mind. If you were to look in on me putting him down for a nap, it would be to that track. It sounds like the dying siren of a rescue droid, drifting through the dust of a dead planet, seeking signs of life.

But the abstruse electronica I’ve been peddling turns out to be nowhere near as effective as my wife’s secret weapon. It renders my son unconscious as reliably as chloroform. It’s the strangled tones of Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman straining their way through the Love Medley from Moulin Rouge.

Perhaps, were he to spy our son’s fate, some poor pigeon, tracing futile circles in a distant lab, will thank his lucky stars.


About Pigeon Patrol:

Pigeon Patrol Products & Services is the leading manufacturer and distributor of bird deterrent (control) products in Canada. Pigeon Patrol products have solved pest bird problems in industrial, commercial, and residential settings since 2000, by using safe and humane bird deterrents with only bird and animal friendly solutions. At Pigeon Patrol, we manufacture and offer a variety of bird deterrents, ranging from Ultra-flex Bird Spikes with UV protection, Bird Netting, 4-S Gel and the best Ultrasonic and audible sound devices on the market today.

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