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.