It may seem easy to us – who wouldn’t want someone to take care of all their needs, the moment they need something. But if we unpack that a little bit, we realize that being a baby may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
- Imagine wanting to go into another room, but not being able to because you can’t walk.
- Imagine feeling hungry but not being able to get yourself some food.
- Imagine being taken somewhere when you really want to stay home.
- Imagine feeling an itchy tag and wishing you were wearing something else – or that you could at least move your hand the way you want to scratch the itch.
- Imagine having to have your diaper changed on a cold day.
- Imagine how disorienting and even scary it may be to go to sleep in one location only to wake up in another.
Babies don’t have the ability to take care of their needs. Many of us may find ourselves in the same situation as we age, or we may be taking care of aging parents.
How would we want to be treated?
How would we like our elderly parents and grandparents to be treated?
When I’m working with babies, I talk to them a lot. I read to them. I narrate what I’m doing. I describe the emotions they may be having. I even make up their side of the conversation. It exposes them to language for sure, but it also provides connection. It treats them like humans (which of course they are!)
When we narrate what we are doing as we change their diaper or give them a bath, our babies don’t understand us. Our voice does however reassure them that we are here and that we love them. It treats them with dignity even if they don’t cognitively grasp that concept. When we have a “conversation” with our babies it also helps us see them not as people who are trying to manipulate and use us, but rather vulnerable people who need a little help right now.
They are trying to learn to meet their own needs and as they get older, we can teach them how to accomplish that and give them opportunities to become independent. But for the time being, we need to fill that role.