The bell curve is everywhere. Intelligence, body mass index, income, age for getting married, my belly after the holidays. The general idea behind the bell curve is that with any given measure, the majority of the population will fall somewhere in the middle. People who fall either way below or way above the average on any measure are few and far between. Of course, don't tell this to parents with children in elementary school. They all seem to think that anything less than straight A's represents a complete failure of the American educational system. "I know my child can't read, but do you have any idea what a B is going to do to her self-esteem?" In this case, the bell curve looks more like a snow drift.

The idea behind the bell curve is fascinating to me. I mean, who came up with the idea of plotting tons of data on a graph and observing its shape? As if we all needed a visual representation of how average we all are. See, there you are, right there where the bell is about to crest. Yep, you're average. The bell curve takes phenomena from the human experience and makes it, well, predictable. It's hard to dream big when you have this big, bell-shaped graph reminding you that, despite your best efforts, you are still less than one standard deviation above the mean, and you might actually be below it.

This got me to thinking, what if I graphed typical events in my child's life? Would the results be as predictable? Will the trajectory end up the shape of a bell? As you have discovered by now, there is only one way to find out: rigorous research. The results of my research, as seen in the graphs below, are quite surprising.

So, maybe parenting isn't so predictable after all, and there are times when the bell curve looks more like a smile. And that is what you have to keep on doing if you are going to make it. Smiling is one thing you can do that makes you feel above average, at least in the 65th %tile, slightly more than 1 standard deviation above the mean.