I was walking into a department store recently and heard one young mother say to another, “I can’t wait until they start walking. It’s going to be so much easier!” Being the well-mannered Southern gal that I am, I waited until I was out of earshot to burst out laughing.

One of the wiggling tots was settled on his mom’s hip while she pushed an empty stroller. The other one hadn’t learned how to escape … yet.

His day will come, and then there will be no going back. Those two will dart up and down the aisles of grocery stores, play hide-and-seek in The Gap and run their moms ragged in parking lots.

I know because I’ve been there, again and again and again. It was a blast, but I’m quite happy where I am now, with three boys who can actually be trusted to stay together in a shopping mall.

That doesn’t mean they won’t fight, but at least they’ll be fighting together … And Tommy will fill me in on who started it.

Two of my friends are expecting their first babies, and it’s all I can do to keep the advice from flowing nonstop from my lips. As the due dates grow near, I have warned both of them not to listen to other moms who brag about enduring four- day, excruciatingly painful deliveries.

“Everybody’s different,” I’ve told them already. “And your hip size has nothing to do with it.” At this point in the conversation, I usually mention my teeny little Aunt Gaylene, whose five children were almost born on the way to the hospital.

“Just remind yourself that if I can do it, you can do it,” is another favorite line. Sometimes, I substitute Britney Spears for myself in that example.

If I happen to bring up the fact that all three of my boys were spitter-uppers and one was an outright spewer, I’m quick to mention that most babies don’t force their mothers to add a burp-rag to her shoulder as a fashion statement.

And I’m saving the sleepless-night conversations for after the babies arrive. “Sleep now while you can!” I want to say, but instead offer less frightening advice such as, “Go out and have a nice dinner with your husband because for the next 13 years you will be paying for a babysitter.”

I’m still forking out cash after a night out, but now I pay the boys to be good, or as close to good as they can be.

Should I recount the times Ron and I returned home to find the babysitter’s mother had been called over to “help out” as well? I don’t think so.

I will discuss and admit to being a little lazy in the potty-training department, which led to eight years spent changing Pampers. Twice, I performed double diaper duty because of toddler- newborn overlap.

The most important lesson in regards to changing diapers is to never, ever leave the house without a clean one.

There’s probably one hiding somewhere in an old purse, even though Ronnie’s in third grade, and we have moved three times since he was potty- trained.

Finally, the most valuable advice I can offer is to follow your instincts and don’t worry about getting everything right the first time. Becoming a parent is the ultimate life lesson, and nobody is an expert.

Not even those people who will frown at you when your child is a crying newborn, screaming toddler or cussing teenager…especially not them.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 17 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at or find the Zichs online at

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