Enjoy it while you can, because they grow up so fast.
This is perhaps the most common advice my wife and I received as new parents. The exact words vary, but the message is clear: Appreciate your baby because he won't be a baby for long.
Note that this advice isn't offered from parents in the trenches, who are too busy making deals with God for 15 more minutes of sleep. The trench parents have enough trouble simply fitting in hygiene let alone to offer pearls of wisdom. Besides, the baby could choke on pearls.
The advice comes from parents who are not wearing spit-up, parents who actually go to the movies. They can see the big picture because, quite simply, they aren't having to squint.
My wife and I are in the seeking-time-for-hygiene category. We have a 3-week-old son. He's wonderful.
He's our second child, and when we brought him home from the hospital, we wondered why we struggled so with the first baby. Sure, with a newborn, there's less sleep and travel requires a couple arm loads of baby paraphernalia, but it doesn't seem nearly as difficult this time.
I guess that's because we've learned. We know how to change things, wash things, check things and ignore things. In short, we have experience, which brings confidence. We know the path, so we don't waste energy fretting or pushing in the wrong direction.
Beyond that, I think we're tougher now. When we had our first son, we were as soft as dashboard 3Musketeers bar in August. We had a frolicking life of board games, movies, listening to music, talking about politics, reading books, going to the gym and staying up late even when we didn't have to ... and sleeping in.
Parenting was like a boot camp, and now we're firm and gristly. So the newborn is not such a challenge. But, a newborn along with a 2-year-old -- ladies and gentlemen, the bar has risen.
Our home is a daily battleground, often strewn with burp cloths, baby bottles, toys, food particles, clothes baskets and the occasional diaper.
The warriors are me and my wife, and each day leaves us limp.
Our general tack is to divide and conquer. She takes the baby and I take the toddler, or vice versa. Going one on two, which my wife does while I'm at work, requires an extra gear. Unfortunately, we don't have extra gears, and we don't have the time to shop for them.
So we do what we can, taking shifts in the night feeding the newborn, taking turns putting the toddler to bed and back to bed, and back to bed and back to ...
With the 2-year-old, we do what my father-in-law coined as "put-backs." Each bedtime requires a handful of trips back up the stairs to put my son back in bed. I think I'm leading the league in put backs, but my wife may dispute that.
However, our most common dispute is over who got the least amount of sleep, because the parent who slept the least should get the most sympathy. And there's so little sympathy available - the children sponge it up - that sometimes we have to scrap for it.
But it's a futile argument because the parent who got the most sleep is only slightly less brain-damaged than the loser. The winner, in fact, loses as well.
So as veteran parents advise, my wife and I will try to enjoy these infant and toddler years, but I question our ability to do so.
It's like having a shotgun deliver a hot fudge Sundae into your mouth. No one is debating the goodness of hot fudge mixed with ice cream, but the trauma of the shotgun delivery mitigates one's ability to savor it.
Tom Martin is editor of The Register-Mail. Contact him at tmartin@register-mail.