Wednesday, March 17, 2021

How Toddlers Are Like a Denial-of-Service Attack

My brain is like a web server that accepts network connection requests from the world.

It has a pool of dormant connections, waiting for sounds. When a potential conversation begins, my brain has to spin up a new connection by identifying the speaker, confirming that an actual conversation is occurring (rather than distracting background sounds), and then dedicating the line to listening intently.

After the conversation concludes, my brain sends the signal for the connection to close. The connection gets freed up and returns to the pool to be reused for the next conversation that comes along.

Conversations with Maia are more challenging. Because she is still refining her speaking skills, a simple statement may require multiple repetitions to complete. Something like, "Do you think we should have olives for dinner?" will come out as, "Do, do, do, do you, do you, do, do, do you, do you think we should, we should, do you, do you, do, do, do, do you, do you think we should have olives for dinner?". (The last half of the sentence always pours out flawlessly -- there must be a scientific reason for this).

In trying to parse this information, my brain will quickly open up a new connection for each of Maia's attempts. This immediately uses up my pool of connections and overloads my brain.

Of course, my brain soon realizes that most of these hanging connections can be canceled and reclaimed. However, I am an introvert. I have a very small pool of connections to begin with and each one takes a long time to free up after use, sometimes as long as 24 hours.

The end result of conversations with Maia (amplified by pandemic quarantine conditions) is that I am constantly operating with a reduced capacity of pooled connections and they often don't get fully cleaned up or recharged before reuse. I may end up hearing things without actually understanding them or misassociating different social stories from different people in my memory because of the jumble.

This is one reason why learning a new game is less likely to be something I want to spend free time on -- the intensity of focus needed to learn a new ruleset is a waste to me if my brain is already filled to capacity processing basic conversations and remembering baseline logistical household needs, especially if I won't play the game again in the near future!

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