Parent Practice

Recently we had the opportunity to babysit our friends’ 10-month-old baby boy. Matthew is a quiet and happy baby, smiling and ready to play. When our friends Maria and Andy went to a wedding, we had the chance to experience a full day with Matthew and learned a bit more about what Maria and Andy experience as parents of a small child.

The rookie and the pro
Marion has been baby-sitting since she was 14 and changed her first diaper when she worked as a candy-striper in a hospital. She also has four nieces and a nephew, so she was the veteran here.

Mike was a camp counselor for 6 years during his high school and college years. That has been his only experience with children of any kind, so needless to say he has never gotten close to any child under the age of 3. Diapers and spitting up had never been part of his experience—until now.

Our day with Matthew started with giving him his formula, which needed to be made. He really chugged it all down and then was ready to play for awhile. Mike had a great rapport with Matthew. He would laugh when Mike would hide behind the couch and play peek-a-boo with him. Matthew also liked Mike’s baseball cap and kept grabbing it throughout the day. Once Mike took the hat off, Matthew became quite upset (bald guys have it tough everywhere!) and wouldn’t smile until he put it back on.

Marion was great when it came to feeding Matthew. A few times Matthew would frown and turn his head away at the strained squash that Marion was spoon-feeding him (quite frankly we don’t blame him). Marion started making funny faces and noises and that got him to take an extra spoonful with each gesture until his entire lunch had been consumed. Mike was impressed with Marion’s ability to keep him engaged.

Timing and other challenges…
it was time for Matthew to take a nap, which gave us a brief moment to relax. Mike took the time to finish a paper he was working on for graduate school, while Marion balanced their checkbook. It made us realize how much of parenting is really time management. Most of the day you are busy taking care of the baby, so you have to do the rest of your chores around the baby’s schedule, which is a big change from the way we presently do things (like whenever we feel like getting to them).

A host of other challenges awaited us on our babysitting adventure. Changing Matthew’s clothes was one, as Mike took time to figure out how the snaps on the baby’s pants worked. The diaper genie was frustrating to use, and we’ve decided that we’re just going to use a wastepaper basket when we have a child.

Mike learned the importance of parenting wardrobe choice. He was glad he wore old comfortable clothes, as he was on the floor a lot and ended up with spit-up all over his shirt. Marion had already scouted this part out. Mike also realized that he should never start eating before a diaper is changed. Marion did that diaper change alone.

Perhaps the highlight of the day came when Mike saw Marion holding Matthew in her arms and reading to him as he was about to go to sleep. Mike wept as he thought of Marion “one day holding our own child, reading to him or her, and kissing the baby goodnight.” Mike realized that his dream of becoming a father was near to coming true. He also saw how wonderful a mother his wife was going to be.

The emotions just all came out, and he felt so blessed to have Marion as his wife and so happy to know that the joy that Matthew brings to Maria and Andy “would one day be ours.”