There's a well-known cultural phenomenon in America called Murphy's Law. I don't know why Mr. Murphy got chosen for the eponymous honor, but I would imagine he was the fall guy because someone Irish came up with the saying. In Poland, it could be called Wojchekowski's Law, for all I know.
Anyway, Murphy's Law states: "Anything that can go wrong, will." Yes Murphy was a pessimist and sometimes a cynic — or what my husband would call a realist. Let's not quibble over semantics. Murphy didn't look for the silver lining in the cloud, he had eyes only for the cloud itself, the darker and gloomier the better.
I guess sometimes it's healthy to embrace Murphy's Law, though. Think of it in terms of the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared. But with Murphy, there's a sardonic twist: Be prepared for the worst because it's sure to happen.
I don't dwell much on Murphy's Law, but based on recent experiences, I decided to adopt my own adage regarding a parenting phenomenon I've discovered. I'll call it Betsy's Parenting Principle.
Betsy's Parenting Principle states: As soon as you think you're doing a good job as a parent, you will be humbled.
And like Murphy's Law, Betsy's Parenting Principle, when it is demonstrated, is punctuated with the popular "foiled again" sound effect from cartoons — whanh-whanh-whaahhh.
Here are a couple examples.
Example 1 — While visiting the Ripley's Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, S.C., last week, we got to pet the stingrays, pick up horseshoe crabs, press hands and noses against the glass of the jellyfish tank and run our hands along countless railings, as had the hundreds of people there before us that day. Before letting 4-year-old Emma dig into our popcorn snack at the cafeteria, I dutifully ushered her to the bathroom so we could wash our hands. We made it back to the table without touching anything. And believe me, I was poised to pounce on her if she so much as glanced at a railing. A few handfuls into the popcorn, Emma spilled some on the table. I hesitated to tell her to throw it away (employing another popular adage, "waste not, want not"), but before I could say anything, she stuck her tongue out and started lapping the pieces up off the who-knows-when-it-was-last-cleaned (and-with-what) table.
Example 2 — This morning, Emma started asking me about smoke detectors and how many we have. (Yesterday obviously was fire safety day at Safety Town!) I told her we have three, one for each floor, plus a carbon monoxide detector. "A what?" she asked. I explained to her about carbon monoxide and answered a dozen "why" questions concerning the device. I told her how it keeps us safe if something goes wrong with the furnace. "Why we can't just get rid of the furnace?" she asked, and the q-and-a continued. After all her questions were satisfied and she was thoroughly educated about CO, she naturally wanted to see the detector. I led her into the hallway to show her the nifty contraption only to find its cover missing and only two of the three AA batteries in place.
Example 3 — On the way back from South Carolina, we stopped in Marietta for dinner. Emma immediately spotted the claw game and asked to play. I emphatically said no. "It just steals your money," I said. "It's a sham. You never win. You just put your dollar in and never win a prize." You see, we have had lots of experience with these games since Emma was old enough to spot a teddy bear a mile away. If we saved every dollar we put into a claw game, we could vacation in Hawaii. So, the answer is no, no, no, every time she asks. But it didn't keep her from asking or from repeating her request all through dinner. As I went up to pay the bill and Dave hit the little boys' room, Emma stood longingly in front of the claw machine. Along came our unsuspecting waitress, a sweet young woman who became enamored with Emma during dinner. Next thing I know, she's sticking a dollar of her hard-earned tip money into that blasted machine! Emma took control of the joystick. And I stood there dripping with defeat as my little girl pushed the button and the claw pulled out a big purple teddy bear.