Eli Got Wet

Last month, Allison and I had Eli baptized at the church we’ve been going to.

It was a big step for the family, and so far one of the biggest parenting decision we’ve made. Neither Allie or I were baptized as infants, nor were we raised in faith traditions that do that sort of thing. For me, baptism was taught as something that had to be a conscious, fully-rational choice to be a christian forever and ever and ever and therefore was an impossible sacrament for babies. Fourth graders; however, are assumed to have the rational/spiritual capacity to make this lifetime election.

That way of doing things just doesn’t make sense to us.

But, as Eli is our first child, we had to discuss the precedent we were setting for ourselves and our future children if we did choose to baptize him. Our current church is affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (a denomination that believes in / practices the baptism of infants), but we’re not by any means devoted to this one particular brand of faith and have no plans to only attend EPC communities for the rest of our lives. Honestly, I am just barely comfortable with going to any church at all. What if we move to Austin and join a community that we feel ok with theologically but they are picky about the whole kid-baptism thing? How do we explain denominational/theological distinctions to a 6 year old who wonders why his older brother got baptized but he didn’t? Do we have to make infant baptism a non-negotiable in future church hunts, which is already the most depressing and horrible experience associated with attending church?

We still don’t have remarkably good answers to those questions and are going to have to deal with those issues as they come up. It all turns out to be much bigger than how old a kid ought to be before you dump water on his head. I struggle with the fact that I even go to a brick-and-mortar church with a budget and staff and debt and denominational BS and politics and stereotypes and precedents and the like. I believe that most of those things present theological and practical problems that I’d rather not have to deal with. Regardless, this is where we find ourselves.

Here’s what it came down to: we believe that there is a God and that He loves our son. We believe that a spiritual life involves a duel movement– God towards man and man towards God. The tradition of baptism that I was raised with celebrates that second movement, marking an individual’s choice to live life with God. Infant baptism celebrates the first movement, that God loves this cute little sack of bones and instincts and already has a plan for his life to be meaningful. Mostly, it marks our intentions as parents to raise Eli to know that love is better than hate, peace is better than violence, and humility is better than power.

It was a special moment. Lots of family and friends came out and we felt very well supported.

Thanks to those who came out.

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Crawling Boy

Eli has begun to crawl.

Sort of.

He hasn’t really mastered legs and arms working together in unison, but he is able to “swim” over the floor. The most surprising thing is how fast it happened. Two weeks ago, we could leave Eli playing for a few minutes while we left the room to make a bottle and he’d stay content in one place. Now he can be chewing on table legs, pulling electric cords, or eating my soccer shoes within seconds.

It’s cute. And I’m not stupid, I knew (from careful observations of others in this species) that eventually, he WOULD learn to crawl and move around. But what I didn’t realize that was with the dawn of movement would also come the Age of Discipline. When he just sat in one place or giggled or ate or even cried, there was nothing for either Allie or I to say ‘NO’ about. Now, he could pull the Christmas tree down or electrocute himself.

The first few times we said no, he just stared at us blankly and kept doing whatever he was doing until we physically picked him up and moved him. Today, I think he started to recognize our tone and the little dude cried when we said that he wasn’t allowed to eat the penny he found under the couch. It was heartbreaking for me, but I know it’s necessary to keep him from being the kind of adult that I don’t want him to become.

Parenthood…

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Eating Time

Last night, Eli ate people food (aka not liquid from a bottle) for the first time.

We were trying to wait until the 6 month mark, per our pediatrician’s recommendation, but he hadn’t really been eating well for a few days and we thought a little cereal might help. We did get it cleared by the good doctor first, don’t worry.

Eli loved it!

Here’s his first few bites of rice cereal.

First Bites from Steven Harrell on Vimeo.

Once he got going, he wasn’t shy about it. Mom wasn’t working the spoon fast enough so he tried to take matters into his own hands. Results were messy.

Gimme that Spoon! from Steven Harrell on Vimeo.

And a few more pictures of the whole event.

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He (obviously) needed a bath after this event.

Eli the Creative

Or,
The Father Who Is Already Trying to Overstep His Bounds

One of our main focuses in parenting (other than, you know, trying to keep this helpless human alive) is trying to make sure that Eli is an addition to our family, not the sole focus of our family. That is to say, trying to create an accurate world for him where he is not the center of everything that happens.

This means we’ve taken him along on our everyday lives as much as possible while maintaining a healthy nap schedule. Yeah, it gets complicated.

Last week we had a family day, and Allison and I took Eli with us to the Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher. While there, I attempted to explain to Eli the importance of art for the larger culture and gave him a few of my rules on museum etiquette.

– Modern art has a significant place in our world, so don’t ever look at work and say, “Why is that pile of squiggles art? I could do that and I’m just a baby.” Even if it is a little true.

– As important as it is not to be an art dunce, but don’t be an art bully either. If you’ve said more than four sentences about a piece, you sound like an asshole.

Etc.

Doing this, I wonder if I am overstepping my parental bounds a little bit. Where is the line between teaching Eli to be a productive member of society and brainwashing him to be the kind of person I want him to be? I want him to be an intentional, artful-minded person and not some jock or video-game addict. I want him to think Irish folk songs are cool and that MMA fights are kinda stupid and that poetry is valuable even if not profitable.

But, is that right? Shouldn’t I let him decide how long he wants to play x-box , and what if he really does think that Giacometti sculpture is creepy and steroids are just tools to accomplish a goal?

What if, instead of inheriting what I think are some of his father’s better qualities like art appreciation and creativity, he just inherited my crappy qualities like laziness and mouthing off and ADD?

What if, instead of taking the best parts of his mother and I, he just turns out to be a magnification of our faults as individuals, as a couple, and as parents?

This makes me nervous. My (fairly half-baked) solution is to try and stuff all of these good things into him, in hopes that we can fill him to capacity before he gets old enough to start noticing all of the bad, rotten, and hidden-away parts.

We’ll see.

Silly Eli, you're not a statue!

How does this make me feel? Gassy.

Having fun outside

Hopefully, he has more musical talent than his father. Maybe a lefty too?

Bathtime!

Parenting is all about compromise.

My wife, Allison, loves taking baths. I get bored in them very quickly.

I think beard-growing is an exceptional hobby and conversation topic. My wife; however, rolls her eyes quite frequently when the subject of men’s facial hair comes up.

But, we have discovered a way to bring these two things together. Eli loves bathtime.

LOVES it.

Mom and Dad love it too.

because eli knows that there are only two kinds of people without beards... women and children. eli wants to be a man!

he is so wise

kinda blurry, but i love his facial expression. he will someday have a mohawk.

eli knows how to work it

could eli lead an evening of contemporary christian worship? this beard says YES!

flock of seagulls maybe?

Little Ranger

family!

One of my favorite outings so far has been taking Eli to his first Texas Ranger game. He was 22 days old, which might seem a little young… and I got nothing to follow that up. It’s early. He was fine. Good times.

We’ve been trying hard to walk the line between not having our entire lives revolve around every blink of Eli’s (so that he grows up with a somewhat realistic perspective of the world and hopefully doesn’t become an over-sharer on twitter) and caring for him well. I honestly have no idea if we’re doing it right.

The game was a good example of this dilemma. My father-in-law had given me two tickets to this game months earlier (when we were all convinced Eli was going to be born in March), and Allie and I wavered beforehand if it was really a good idea to take a three week old to Arlington with 20,000 sweaty strangers. But, on the other hand, he did already have an appropriate outfit.

Parenting involves a lot of small choices that lead to big things.

It did start to rain during the game, but Eli had to eat anyways so we had already gone inside. Dad got a churro while Mom fed Eli, and once everyone was done they had started playing baseball again. The Ballpark in Arlington is actually pretty family friendly, we got smiled at a whole lot and even got him a certificate to commemorate his first MLB experience!

rockin at the gift shop

i can see the field!

what are these people doing to me?

Eli Quinn the Eskimo* Got Here

Now everybody’s gonna jump for joy.

Eli Quinn Harrell
April 18, 2011, 3:23pm
9 lbs, 4.7 oz, 20 in

On April 18, 2011 at 3:23pm, my life changed forever as my family grew from 2 to 3.

Leading up to that time, there were a lot of things that could have been pretty stressful or upsetting, but for some reason Allison and I never felt scared or frustrated. The experience was calm, relaxed, and easy. Our goal was a healthy mom and healthy baby, and we both had full confidence that no matter what the road to get there looked like, our result was going to be two things:

1. A healthy mom
2. A healthy baby

I know it doesn’t always work out that way, but we’re grateful that for us it did. Some combination of good doctors, good spirits, luck, and miracles were at work. Which were what isn’t for me to find out.

After he was born, I rolled him into the hospital room and all of the family oohed and ahhed for a few minutes before they all got shooed out and it was just the 3 of us (Allie, Eli, Me). In that moment, I realized a distinct difference between man and woman.

The first time Allison held our son, she soothed him and gave him his first meal. She told him how excited we were that he was a part of our family, and how much we loved him already.

The first time I held Eli, I just stared at him in a stupor.

Then I cried a little.
Then I prayed.

His first few days in the hospital were full of visitors, family, friends, nurses of all varieties, test (after test after test after test), pediatricians, surgeons, social workers, a crabby lady demanding money, lactation consultants, etc etc. I can’t really remember all of it. Thanks to those of you that came by and called and texted and facebook-ed well wishes. It confirmed what we already knew: we are loved, and our baby is welcome in this world.

Being home has been better. Allison and I have been alternating between exhausted and exhilarated, sometimes feeling both at the same time. Thanks to the support of family we’ve gotten (some) sleep. The phrase “one day at a time” makes a lot more sense now. There’s not really any other way to do this.

I go back to work tomorrow, and while it will be nice to stretch my legs a little I will be sad to leave my new family.

More pictures can be found on my dad’s flickr as well as my facebook.

*Allison told me I had to make it clear that “Eli Quinn the Eskimo” is a totally unauthorized nickname that in no way reflects her approval or and thus the use of which must be limited.


Need/Want

I like words. Words are important to me, and as such it upsets me when they are misused.

Don’t end a sentence with a preposition, don’t confuse there/their/they’re, don’t start a sentence with the word “however”.

All of that matters, but in the same way it doesn’t really as long as you are able to say what you mean.

Your lesson for today is the most common mistake in our culture: the difference between need and want. I will never hesitate to correct you on this.

You will never, ever need a hazelnut latte. You may, from time to time, want one. Be accurate.

You will never need to see a menu, or need two movie tickets, or need a new job.

I pray that you will never need a beer.

You may, occasionally, need to take a break. Don’t confuse this with times when you just want to stop.

For the big stuff, the real stuff, people tend to temper their soul-yearnings with the word ‘want’, as if their obligations to themselves and their world are merely a passing appetite and non-essential fancies of the human life.

I want to make a difference.

I want to believe. I want my life to count for something. I want to change the world. I want to spend more time on my art. I want to quit smoking.

I want to hold your hand. (Hell, sometimes you just need to grab that hand and see who lets go first.)

This isn’t a discussion about failure. There is no shame in admitting what you need to do, then failing. But you must be honest and accurate about the things you need to do.

I need to love you, provide for you, and teach you how to be a man in this world.

I need to be proud of you.

I want you to be successful. I want you to be happy.