From our panel of staff contributors
I'll pass along what a colleague told me when I was expecting: The days are long, the years are short. In other words, don't expect those days with baby to be all bliss. It's not always easy and sometimes is even lonely when they're very young and you're tethered to home. But suddenly, as they say, they're graduating and off to college.
Save or record everything. The craft projects, the 1-year-old birthday parties, the toy teacup for which you paid $85 (actually, that's what you paid the plumber to remove it from your toilet). It happens so fast, and the next thing you know you're singing a teary-eyed "Sunrise, Sunset" in Ballroom C in the Marriott.
Be mindful of the baby's need for sleep. In the beginning, if she's been up for two hours, it's probably time for a nap. If she looks tired, it's probably time for a nap. And when she starts regulating sleep patterns, remember the counterintuitive point that if you want her to sleep later, get her to bed earlier. Dr. Marc Weissbluth's book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" (Ballantine), includes a lot of useful information even if you don't follow his program.
As a great friend once told me: You (the parents) are not the only ones raising your children. So are the people you surround them with. Relatives, good friends will all influence your children, whether it's a neighbor lady who teaches a child how to bake or an uncle who teaches your kid how to water-ski or a cousin who takes time to soothe, diaper, listen when mom and dad are overwhelmed.
Pretend you're the grown-up. Far too often — acting on their desire to provide options, give their child a sense of self or behave like a beloved peer — contemporary parents forget that the parent/child relationship is not one between equals. Kids come into the world with plenty of stuff mapped onto their brains — we call this innate response mechanism, their temperament. What they don't have is an understanding of how things work, a sense of limits, or an ability to deal with broad choice and abstraction. You need to help guide them through these things. This doesn't mean you should be a heartless dictator, simply that you should remember your job description and not be afraid to engage your superior brain power, size, knowledge and sense of structure. So when you find yourself in an impossible or exasperating situation with your child, take a step back and ... ask yourself, "What would I do if I were the adult?"
— Brett Berk, early childhood expert and author of "The Gay Uncle's Guide to Parenting" (Three Rivers Press)
Sometimes comparing babies is good, and sometimes it's awful. You will be reassured or you will freak out. So, remember, while there are typical stages of development for all babies, each baby is different. Each reacts and behaves in response to development, her/his nature, and the fit s/he has with you. So, listen to your parent friends, but take what they say with a grain of salt.
— Betsy Brown Braun, parenting coach and author of "Just Tell Me What to Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents" (HarperCollins)