Posted by: Louise | September 27, 2011

the conversation about odds

It was sometime after midnight. We had been to a BBQ en famille and were now preparing to walk home.

I’m tired. Why can’t we drive home? asked the Little Boy Racer.

We had driven up because we were running late, but the plan had always been to walk home. It would only take 15 minutes and then both K and I could have a glass of wine.

We can’t drive because Daddy and I both had a glass of wine and you aren’t allowed to drink alcohol and drive.

The irony of this conversation on responsible parenting, held on a dark street, long after my children’s bedtimes, was not lost on me.

OH WHY did you have to have a glass of wine? Giraffe Princess moaned.

GP!!! Astro Boy exclaimed, exasperatedly. That is like a kid going to a party and not being allowed to drink Coke!

Bless his cotton socks.

So on we trudged on the homeward march.

I’m scared I’ll see a rat and it will jump out at me and scare me to death, the Giraffe Princess announced, not in the least prone to melodrama (nor I to sarcasm.)

I think the chances of that now are pretty slim, I reassure.

No. Fifty – fifty.

Well, first you have to see a rat, then it has to jump at you, then you have to get such a fright that you fall down dead. That is three unlikely things straight away. Most likely we won’t see any four legged creature before we get home. If we do, it is really unlikely that it will jump up at you. If it does jump up at you, it will probably scare you, but most likely not to death. So the odds are very low indeed.

No. Fifty – fifty.

I tried to protest again, but my mind was back to a time when I clung like a limpet to odds. One in twenty chance that your daughter has down’s syndrome. 1:20. That is a 5% chance or, much better, a 95% chance that she is fine. The chances of her having down’s syndrome with a heart condition were smaller again. The chances of her heart stopping before she was ever born….. What were the chances that I would get pregnant in the first place? There had to be some power in the fact that had happened. It had to mean something.

Fifty – fifty.

You are right, Princess. It either happens or it doesn’t. That is the only odd that means anything.

And we opened the door to home…


  1. Despite years spent studying statistics I am inclined to agree with your Giraffe Princess. Once you are outside the realm of hypotheticals and the odds are for something that matters desperately (including your chances of getting scared to death by a rat!) the only thing you can rely on is fifty – fifty, yes or no.

    I love Astro Boy’s comment about the wine! Very wise children you have there.

  2. oh gosh.. yes. I NEVER used to look at odds like I do now. Odds of stillbirth. Odds of a rare as hell blood disease. Odds of recurrent miscarriage. Odds of secondary infertility.
    Statistics lie.. I always used to hear that phrase working in the field of medicine.. but it has a new meaning these days.

    PS I too love Ab’s comment.. what a clever boy!

  3. I gave up on statistics a long time ago. Some people find comfort in them, I find terror.

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