Captain of the Changing Table

Some day in the future, I plan to be very intimately involved in the raising of my son. I shall teach him how to ride a bike and how to read. (No, I mean how to *read*.) I will discuss with him how to raise a family and what to look for in a wife, the importance of preparing to be a provider from an early age, the joys of duty and responsibility. But for now, the days of early infancy are primarily a mother’s realm. No matter how beautiful the baby, it takes a mother’s heart to truly cherish a child who only wants and never learns – who is a bundle only of needs.

To love and coo and long for this experience is beyond me, but Valerie does it, and every woman I meet seems to wish to aid her. As for me, I cannot feed him at the breast, and to see him in a perfect little outfit that is just *so* cute stirs no excitement in me. What joys I have in the duties of infant childhood parenting I perceive through the lens of my wife. She loves this time and in it feels that overwhelming mother-love for her son, and through her, I feel these things too. But in all honesty, there is little of the parenting at this age that is truly mine to do.

There is one capacity, however, that I can be fully vested in: the changing table. I am captain of the changing table. When David wakes in the middle of the night, I can’t feed him, so I don’t stay up all and lose hours of sleep every night. But in the middle of every feeding, there is a procedure that involves getting up from the bed. Valerie leans over and wakes me (which is fortunately easy – I have the felicity of being immune to baby cries, but very sensitive to my name); I get up, fetching her a glass of water, and take from her the baby. I carry him into the other room, make all the adjustments, and bring him back, ready for his second helping. This happens 2-3 times per night, at most 10 minutes lost of sleep. For me, nothing, but everything gained for my wife.

My captaincy ends around 6:30 in the morning, when I leave the house to go to work. At 3:00 (uh, 4:00? 4:30?), I come home and resume my stake. On the weekends, of course, my role never ceases. It is an exceedingly small burden for me since, with today’s technology, wet diapers are not so much wet as surprisingly heavy; breastfed babies also have the advantage that their waste is actually not all that unpleasant to smell (It’s about the equivalent of a strong cheese), and our son seems to be uh, blessed, with very infrequent bowel movements anyway.

Of course I also am still at home in my own house and know how to cook and clean, and a greater responsibility in these areas has fallen on me. Occasionally I am also viceroy of the bathtub and lieutenant of tummy time, but from my perspective, my contribution is almost nothing. Yet my wife says what I do is such a great relief to her that I continually earn her gratitude. This is a good thing, because in my mind every service I perform for our son is first and foremost a gift to her, and every complaint a cry of concern for her wellbeing.

5 thoughts on “Captain of the Changing Table”

  1. I would only make one small correction….despite what you may perceive “Little Eb” is highly invested in learning at this time. First & foremost he is learning security, love & trust. — and whether or not it’s apparent, he’s probably even started on his delayed gratification certificate. He is also learning practical things like how to track his vision, locate sound, grasp and respond to faces. He’s working on his strength training….sort of like ballet barre work….dull & boring right now but so essential for all those movements later on. It’s all learning and it’s all foundational. Remember the greater the structure, the deeper the foundation needs to be. Which is why I think God gives us a longer foundation building time [childhood] than other members of His creation. You’re just bored because you want to teach him those skills at which you excel — reading, singing, dancing & playing video games.

    On the plus side — no one can fault a man who captain’s the changing table and every woman loves a man with dishpan hands.

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  2. This was the phrase I was referring to: ” it takes a mother’s heart to truly cherish a child who only wants and never learns”.

    I know I’m splitting hairs…you come by it honestly.

    BTW — Kerry said it was the best thing you’ve written….or at least the best thing you’ve written that she’s read. 😉

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  3. Tell her I said thank you.

    I was thinking of the fact that every time he wakes up hungry, he’s terrified. Every time, it’s as though he has never been hungry before. More than ever I understand the psalm

    I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.

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  4. That will preach.

    I’m thinking of all the different things we deal with, panic over, stress about….you’d think we’d never been there before….obviously we survived the last time. Obviously God didn’t fail — why are we terrified?

    When I read that psalm I am reminded of the point that Bill Roycroft made about it — it literally changed my life.

    “I” have calmed and quieted my soul. Too often we are expecting God to come down and overwhelm our emotions and calm us, Himself. It was very powerful when I learned that I had to do it….and that I could.

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