This is certainly not my definitive list, because my girls are still only three and five-and-a-half. Still, it's occurred to me that there are some good rules that experience has taught me, but which none of the moms or grandmas or magazine articles in my life thought to share. So here are my greatest words of wisdom to new parents:
1. As soon as your baby can raise its head, you need to clear off a generous spot on top of the fridge for every pen and especially sharpie in the house. It doesn't matter if you think they're a tiny, innocent little thing. Babies lull you into complacency and then they strike permanently. On that note, keep some Magic Erasers up there too. Buy stock.
2. It's okay to occasionally let the tv “babysit”, especially if you and your spouse can't get a moment alone otherwise. Pick self-playing, two hour Dora and Diego specials. Your children will become budding naturalists and fluent in Spanish. If they have siblings, you and your spouse should occasionally watch with them so you know what they're plotting behind your back. Seriously.
3. When you stock extra toilet paper in the bathroom, you should always loosen the roll on each and every one. Otherwise, you will wake one morning to a fresh roll torn into fourths and a very clogged toilet.
4. Be sure to store anything with sugar on the very top shelves in the pantry. This includes favorite cereals, even if they're healthy. If you have room left on top of your fridge, that works too. The bottom shelves are for things like apples (bag opened), partial packs of crackers (you'll always have five or six almost-gone packs anyway), bananas, granola bars, and little reasonable-portioned sandwich baggies of dried fruit. Just one for each kid, no matter how long they once again lull you into complacency.
5. It's okay to drop them. You'll feel really bad about it, but, secretly, everyone does it. Not on purpose, of course, but it happens. It's really all right, unless a limb or something is twisted.
6. Be vigilant. Only allow them to hear words that you are totally okay with them screaming in a grocery store.
7. I know people will disagree with me on this one, but sometimes it's okay to swat them. Even if you start out saying you never, ever will. I have a most firey red-head, and sometimes that really is the only thing that let her know I'm serious. And sometimes, if you hold off in, say, a public place for fear that someone will call the police or something while your child is turning all Exorcist on you, the public will actually reassure you that no one will stop you from disciplining your child. Nip it in the bud before it ever gets to that point.
8. That said, be prepared to drop any and every thing if your children say they need a hug. (Unless it's during manipulative negotiations, so be understanding and compassionate about the differences.)
9. It is totally worth waking early to have family snuzzle time every morning.
10. Don't think “I could never homeschool”, because you do every time you spend a moment with your child.