Before I had Smooch, I occasionally went bowling. (By “occasionally,” I mean less than once a year. By “went bowling,” I mean I paid for my shoes and attempted to roll the ball in the same direction as all the other people.) My high score is somewhere in the mid-40s. (But that’s only in real life. On the Wii, I rock at bowling. But I digress.) The funny thing about my bowling -okay, there are a lot of funny things about watching me bowl- is that every single time I launched the ball down that smoothly waxed alley, I did the exact same thing. I backed up a few steps, fingers crossed, whispering “Oh please oh please oh please oh please!” As the ball crossed those crucial last few feet, I started jumping up and down, little hops at first and then big audacious jumps. Most of the time, I’d knock down two or three pins and start my self-congratulatory pep talk on my way back to my seat.
Silly? Oh, you bet. But I got it into my head that this little step-whisper-jump routine was PROPELLING THE BALL FORWARD and helping it KNOCK DOWN PINS. It quickly became my little bowling superstition.
Moms -at least, most of the moms I know- are a superstitious group. Oh, we’re not as bad as baseball players, maybe, but we have our own little rituals and routines and jinxes. (Any wearing of the same
jersey shirt repeatedly, game after game day after day, probably has more to do with a laundry issue than a matter of luck. Then again, if your newborn falls asleep for a six hour stretch every time you wear that green bathrobe all day long, you might have something lucky on your hands after all.)
I know women who go through long, elaborate bedtime routines – reading Goodnight, Moon; saying goodnight to every stuffed animal owned by their three-year-old; doing multiple verses of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star at varying speeds; turning out the lights; giving special kisses and hugs to the child and the stuffed animals and the pictures of the grandparents; and finally turning out the lights and praying it worked. And there are those of us who always do, or say, or bring along, certain things at the start of a long car trip. Others hold firmly to a belief in Lucky Loveys.
One near-universal superstition is The Jinxing of the New Behavior. I’m serious. You know you know what I’m talking about. How many times have you been chatting with a friend about what her little darling is up to lately, when her voice drops to a whisper, her eyes dart from side to side, and she whispers hoarsely, “I shouldn’t even say anything, I don’t want to jinx it, but she’s been sleeping through the night!” or peeing in the potty, or sharing with her friends, or eating her zucchini, or whatever. You know.
I’ve always laughed off a lot of Mommy Superstitions. I usually explain away our particular bedtime routine as something that’s developmentally appropriate. Toddlers need routine, because it helps them understand what is coming next in a big, often-times scary and confusing world. I’m blessed with a basically easy-going kid, who does have a deep and abiding love for his pacifiers, but isn’t attached to any particular lovey or stuffed animal or anything along those lines. He’s not a territorial kid, he’s not all that set in his ways. I’ve been able to chuckle a little at moms who always do A-then-B-then-C.
And the Jinxing? How silly!
Until last night.
On the phone with a good friend from Florida, whose daughter is about the same age as Smooch, our conversation eventually drifted to the kids. We’d covered all the dirt on the school where she teaches (where we used to work together) and the mutual friends and the holidays. What do you expect? She brought up her daughter’s sleeping habits, which are getting increasingly frustrating for my (7-months-pregnant) friend, who just wants to sleep through the night already! I put in my little tidbit about Smooch, of course. Go ahead, cue the ominous music.
“Yeah, we’re really lucky. We made the switch to the toddler bed, and the first couple of nights were hard and it took us an hour to convince him to stay in bed – but since then it’s been really smooth sailing. He goes to bed early, like seven o’clock, and he’s about 50-50 on sleeping through until 7:30 a.m. When he gets up it’s usually to snuggle in our bed for an hour, drink his milk, and then he asks to go ‘night-night’ in his own room.”
And you know what? I meant it. Every word. I wasn’t bragging or trying to make her feel bad about her own situation. We chatted at length about the notion that kids aren’t all going to sleep the same way – we pointed out how her daughter is a night owl who doesn’t seem to need much sleep, just like her daddy; and how my son seems to wind down quickly and sleep easily, just like his mommy – and we talked about things my friend might try to help her daughter make a transition to longer sleeping stretches and possibly not needing the TV to fall asleep. It was a NICE conversation! But that doesn’t matter, because I broke.the.rules.
That night, Smooch woke at midnight. We brought him to our bed, gave him his sippy cup, and cuddled in for a long winter’s nap. He sat up in bed at 2:00 and asked for night-night, so I got him settled in his bed and headed back to my room. Then, for the next two solid hours, he got out of bed, played with toys for a few minutes, and then started beating on his door and calling “Mama! Daddy!” And we took turns going to his room, telling him to get back in bed, (which he did, every time, without protest!) and putting his covers back on, and coming back to our bed – where it would start all over.
So, internets, I take back my chuckling. I understand my fellow moms a little better today – the ones who always wear their lucky jerseys and don’t take a shower on game day. Because I learned my lesson: the jinxing is real. So if you need a few superstitions to get through the night, then good luck and godspeed to you.