It's probably meant to be a helpful tip from experienced parents to newbies. They offer it with knowing nods and smiles, helping those below them on the parenting ladder with this crucial advice: Sleep when the baby sleeps, they say.
Once, I acknowledged this with wide, doe-eyes and a tremulous heart. Oh, of COURSE! THANK you for your help!
Now, though, I know better. When experienced parents tell this to their first-time counterparts, they're really issuing a warning as frightening as any apocalyptic prophesy. They're saying (with their heads spinning maniacally, mouths foaming, and eyes rolling heavenward) YOU'LL ONLY EVER SLEEP AGAIN IF IT'S WHEN THE BABY ALLOWS THE STARS TO ALIGN AND HIS OWN GASSY EMISSIONS TO BRIEFLY HALT THEIR IRRITATING MINISTRATIONS ON YOUR BEHALF. YOU. HAVE. BEEN. WARNED.
Really, the better advice would be to learn how to survive on no sleep at all. Now THAT would be worthwhile knowledge! Because no matter how sleepy a child is, the instant you lay his head down on a surface that is anything other than human skin, he may feign sleep momentarily. You may be lulled into thinking he will persist in rest. You may even tiptoe to the nearest bed or couch or unforgiving kitchen floor to lay down your own head.
As soon as you breathe that single, exultant exhalation and reach for a blanket or pillow with which to celebrate your victory....
The baby will awaken.
It has been foretold. It has been passed down from generation to exhausted generation, and the method of its transmission is this seemingly benign advice.
If you so happen to be on the receiving end of Sleep when the baby sleeps, you can retain your tenuous grip on sanity by remembering the truth behind the words. The threat behind them.
And you can answer with a kind-hearted and effusively gracious:
No thanks. I think I'll shower/eat/stare into the ether/contemplate the demise of Kris Humphries/write an unintelligible blog post instead.
It just makes sense.