Life with kids can be like the opening credits to Sex and the City. You’re walking along, feeling sassy because you finally overcame some hurdle and made it through a difficult parenting life lesson, when all of a sudden you get splashed by sludge from a bus.
Oddly, that image of Carrie Bradshaw getting hosed always resonates whenever I’m feeling sure of my parenting skills. It’s like some higher power – the Goddess of Hubris – sees you get the hang of nursing, figure out a nap schedule or stand up to a school administrator in a way that feels authentic, then all of suddenly she strikes you down as if to say, “Suck it lady, you think you know something? You don’t know crap.”
I had this experience recently when I made it through my son’s first birthday and he was starting to sort of sleep through the night with my older daughter in the same room. I was finally feeling good, like maybe I was beginning to figure out this two-kid thing. I was no longer nervous to take both of them to the playground and didn’t feel dead tired and insane and out of control like I do 95 percent of the time (more like 80 percent – an improvement!)
Then we took a family trip and when we returned home everyone got sick and small people were feverish, lethargic and yelling in the middle of the night for a straight week. It sucked. During those middle-of-the-night fests of woe, holding one or the other while they cried, I cursed myself for feeling cocky the week before.
Ebbs and flows. Ups and downs. We know this about parenting. It was in the brochures. It will be this way for the rest of our lives. Having young kids is the easy part. And all the other things your mom or mother-in-law says when you complain about how hard it is having kids. But I’m convinced it’s the confidence that will kill you every time, especially if you say out loud that you feel like you’ve got it going on.
It’s the keinena hora syndrome. If you’re Jewish you might recognize this Yiddish phrase as something older people, or actors in Woody Allen movies might say, sometimes while spitting to both sides. The idea of keinena hora, which translates to “no evil eye,” it is to protect yourself and your loved ones from, well, evil. And to remind you not be boastful, because the evil eye loves to screw over those boastful people! My grandma Jeanie used to say it whenever she bragged about my sisters and meet: “L. got into Brown (keinena hora), A. just won a medal in gymnastics (keinena hora), M. has such beeyootiful hair (keinena hora).”
I don’t think I’m the kind of parent who brags about my kids explicitly. Too old-school. Obviously they are gorgeous and creative and gifted (keinena hora). But the mechanics of parenting, of taking two kids on the subway, of getting my daughter to say please and thank you, or having the rare weekend day where my husband and I both get to exercise, grocery shop as a family, and the kids are happy at bedtime, I certainly have allowed myself to feel triumphant about those types of days on occasion.
And you know what? I’m never victorious for long because the minute I say to my husband, while snuggling into bed after staying up too late watching television for the first time in months, “Last night was great. I bet M. will sleep through again,” or even, “Z. has been amazing about getting out of the house in the morning ….” Splash. Puddle on the tutu. Keinena hora, baby.