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There is a game that my girls (10 and 6) play at great length. One of them puts her hands over her eyes and asks, “Are my eyes open or closed?”

The guesser stares at the back of her sister’s hands. “Uhhhh…open!” at which point the first one pulls her hands away to reveal, most often, closed eyes.

I hate this game.

I hate it because even if everyone is rigorously honest (pfft), there is literally no way to know in the first place. The guess is necessarily, definitively wild. The only honest answer is “I have no idea, go away.”

Once in a while, forgetting my opinion on the matter, one of them will turn the latest version on me. “Daddy,” Laney will say, hands behind her back, “guess whether my fingers are crossed!”

“Go far away.”

“Just guess!”

Just guess. I only like educated guessing. I like looking at scraps of information and trying to tease out the answer to a puzzle. That’s fun. But in this case she’s essentially saying Take a random stab at it, based on nothing. Say the first thing that comes to mind. Go with your gut. Reach out with your feeeelings. Use the Force, Luke. I don’t wanna.

As Malcolm Gladwell illustrates in the fascinating (though subtitularly offputting) Blink — The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, what we call “going with your gut” can actually be effective when there are data. We often make decisions in a blink that turn out to be informed by evidence that we perceived but didn’t consciously process. Gladwell goes to great lengths to note that what we call “intuition” is not magic — it’s regular old cognition, just quick and subconscious.

I usually end up playing along with the girls, just to be Mr. Daddy Fun Fun, but I quit after two or three rounds because the whole idea of pretending I have a clue when I have none irritates me. It just does.

Becca went through a period of playing the same game when pregnant with each of our kids. In the dark of our room, three minutes after the light went out, her voice would suddenly pipe up: “Do you think it’s a boy or a girl?”


“Well of course.”

“Which one?”

“Oh, which one? No idea.”

“Just guess, silly!”


I guess I didn’t care enough about being Mr. Husband Fun Fun to play along. She got her revenge, though. The girls learned the game in utero.

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.