by Jackie Bartlett
I am a very squeamish person, especially around bodily fluids (When I scoop the cat litter, I usually gag and sometimes actually barf). Before I started Baby School, I thought I would view diaper changes as a necessary and disgusting part of my job. Now, they are one of my favorite parts of my job. I still don't enjoy the smell of a full diaper, but it is a minor inconvenience when compared with the joy of experiencing a child's sense of self-respect and competence. There are so many ways a child can participate in the task. They can hold the fresh diaper, lift their bottoms, hold up the diaper front. The child often laughs, stretches, and coos while they engage with you and the job itself.
Photo by flicker.com/photos/mister_tee/
The key is to ask for help and wait. Then, wait some more. Yes, it is quicker to do the job yourself and not wait for your child to raise his legs a couple of inches when you're going to have to lift his legs anyway to get his butt high enough to clean off, but think about what you are teaching. Your child is ALWAYS learning from you; the question is what they are learning. During a diaper change, you have a choice to do TO your child or do WITH your child. If you go the quick route, maybe giving the child a toy to hold while you wrangle their lower body, you are telling your child that their help is not needed, that caring for your child's body is your job, and they have no role in the care of their own body. If you go the long way, asking for help as you go and waiting, waiting, waiting, you show your child HOW to care for their own body. Your child learns that you want to spend time with them--time when you are not distracted.
Essentially, you show your child your love. For me, what transforms these times from a dreaded chore to a pleasure is that the children show me their love, too. In the banal tasks of care giving we are consistently offered an opportunity to celebrate achievement, to give the gift of time, and to experience mutual love.