You’ve seen them most places. You are looking for a restroom and the sign on the door says, “Baby Changing Station.” We fought to have them in men’s restrooms and now we can change the baby’s diaper somewhere besides the floor. I was in one with a father this week and found myself spell bound by the conversation inside. It was the most soothing experience I’ve had in a long time. No, really.
The baby was crying. Not a hard, desperate cry; more of a steady protest cry. Dad was walking in behind me and I wondered what he was going to do with an infant while he relieved himself. It turns out he had everything under control.
Crying babies used to intimidate dads. The first whimper would cause us to look for mom and have an immediate transfer of duties. I do the playing; you do the changing. No longer. Mom was nowhere in sight. Did I mention that dad had this one?
His voice was deep and calm. Steady, soothing and punctuated by consistent cries from the baby. He wasn’t trying to drown out the baby’s cries and seemed unconcerned that another man was going to hear everything he said. It was like I didn’t exist. He was having a conversation with his child and his words were part of the response to the cries. ‘Yeah, that’s what I’d be saying if my pants were full,’ he said. ‘Yeah, I’m sure you are really uncomfortable, huh.’ Each comment from dad was followed by a short pause and then another whimper from his child. Relief was on the way but it hadn’t arrived yet.
Crying babies can sometimes outlast our arsenal of comforting phrases. Even when we are solving the problem, our child can be relentless about reminding us the problem still exists. At one point, dad said, “I was just sayin’ that last week!” He knew the actual words mattered less than the dependability of his responses. The response needed to be as constant as the crying. His cadence of steady, soothing words matched each cry. The child needed the reassurance that dad was getting to the solution and empathizing with the pain.
Dad’s calm, steady, soothing voice continued to work its magic on the baby until the change was complete. I had to resist hanging around to congratulate him or compliment him or say, “I’m a dad blogger and I’m going to write about you this week.” I know that dads like this are more and more common. They are doing what needs to be done. They are changing the world one baby at a time. Their involvement in childcare isn’t heroic or unusual at all; it’s just what they do. Despite the fact that I admired him for ignoring the bystanders and just doing a good job, he would have responded like the guy who just ran into the burning house and rescued someone. He would have seemed surprised that anyone thought anything about his heroism; it’s just what you do, right?
This dad’s calm voice even soothed me. I was tense and stressed and as I washed my hands, I realized I was smiling. With dads like that around, we should change the sign to “soothing station.”