I know what you’re thinking. “What could a kangaroo POSSIBLY know about being a dad?” While giving your child to a Kangaroo probably won’t win you the “father of the year” award, we have a lot to learn from the way kangaroos care for their babies. Female kangaroos have a pouch that they carry their babies in, keeping them close and in contact as much as possible. While male kangaroos don’t have a pouch, human fathers have used the idea of a Kangaroo pouch to form strong and meaningful relationships with their children. Kangaroo care is the idea of integrating as much skin-to-skin contact into a relationship between an infant and parent. A small study performed in 2007 exploring the relationship between fathers and babies found that fathers who held their babies to their chest had an immediate effect on their babies. Doctors also stated that skin to skin contact between a baby and their father is what creates the bond between them.
Skin to skin contact is not just beneficial for the child. Holding a child changes the mental state of the child and holder and leads to a healthier life for both. Additionally, studies have shown that babies who received Kangaroo Care (KC) have “more predictable sleep patterns; steadier respiration and heart rates; and better affective attention—or the ability to direct their gaze and actions toward a goal.”1 Consistent, positive physical contact ensures a strong relationship between baby and parent through adulthood. So many small details come together to allow parent and baby to connect and build an intimate relationship full of loving touch. While children are born with a deep connection to their mother already, a child must form a deeper relationship with their father upon entering the world. Holding a child against the fathers chest promotes the bond between father and child throughout childhood and into adulthood.
Jesus first experiences touch as any other child would, being held in the arms of his mother, Mary. This first moment of touch not only prepares us for Jesus’ ministry in obedience to God throughout his life on earth, but also introduces us to the idea of touch in his ministry. Jesus’ touch in this story sets the scene for a lifetime of touch that culminates in the soul saving touch of the crucifixion. The completion of the purification process through Jesus’ circumcision fulfills the purification process of all babies for the rest of time. Later in Jesus’ ministry here on earth, he is approached by a Pharisee, Nicodemus, in the middle of the night. Jesus states, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Though it is impossible to be physically reborn, we are asked to be like infants in our faith and in our love. We are asked to enter into the arms of our father God just as we enter into the arms of our earthly fathers.
Touch is a necessary part of building a relationship between a father and child. It builds the bond a healthy relationship rests on for the rest of the child’s life! Kangaroo’s might not be able to raise our children, but we are lucky to have learned what we have from them!
- Kluger, Jeffrey. “How Cuddling Saves Tiny Babies.” Time, Time, 8 Jan. 2014, time.com/504/how-cuddling-saves-tiny-babies/.