Eli is 3 and a half months old. That is totally insane to me.
It seems like just last week that I was
in the hospital telling friends and family that we were expecting. All the nervous/excited talks that Allie and I had, sort of knowing what to expect and also having absolutely no idea. We forced friends to promise to still come hang out with us, and their faces clearly said, “Heck no, I’m not coming over to your house with your screaming baby,” possibly fearing that we might pour them a nice glass of wine and suddenly dart out the house and never return.
I’ve learned a lot about myself and my wife caring for Eli, but I think I’m also learning quite a bit about people in general. Babies are like these little raw humans, with all of the elements of humanity but without the ability to calm themselves down, talk, or avoid hurling their own fist into their eye socket.
The day an elephant is born, it has the ability to run away from lions. It took this kid three months to be able to accidentally roll himself onto his stomach, and even then he just starts screaming because if we don’t roll him back over he could suffocate. This is the animal that conquered the rest of the beasts? If somehow we were to find a panel of aliens and parade in front of them an infant version of every creature on Earth, then ask, “Which of these do you think grows up to control the fate of the rest?” I have a feeling that Eli would be pretty far down on that list.
But, it happens. I can already see his brain working and developing behind those eyes. He recognizes Allie and I just by our voice, and mimics our facial expressions. If one of us makes a vowel sound over and over, I can see him study our mouths and try to get his lips to do the same thing. He’s persistent, somehow managing to wrench his hands out of his swaddle blanket no matter how tight I wrap him up. Centimeter by centimeter, he wiggles and wiggles and wiggles and manages to get his fist into his mouth. Or eye socket. (Close enough, little dude.)
I shouldn’t really make fun. I’m just dexterous enough to feed and clean myself, but not enough to actually put a pair of socks and a long sleeved shirt on a wiggling baby.
Even in this totally non-autonomous state that he’s in, he still tries to do things on his own. He tried to take off his own diaper the other day, loves sitting in his Bumpo seat more than anywhere else in the house, and pretty much won’t eat unless he gets to put one of his hands on the bottle to act like he’s feeding himself.
Silly kid, you’re not able to take care of yourself yet. Just wait until you’re older, until your whole world is under your control. You’ll make your own money, live wherever you want, eat whatever you can afford, and be the lord of your own castle. Your work and abilities will provide for you and yours.
At least, that’s what I used to assume. Watching Eli, though, I don’t think its true. I think more often than not I’m probably just putting my hand on the bottle, pretending that I’m the one in control. Caring for him has showed me how well cared for I am and how dependent on the surrounding community everyone is. Society and the polis, as it turns out, is essential to human nature.
Eli is also pretty easily distracted, and he has a tendency to be much more interested in the spinning fan than his own father’s face. It is disheartening to imagine the potential increase in father/son interaction we would have if only my face spun around and possibly had plastic crap dangling from it.
I wonder how often I do the same thing to him, choosing to play Doodle Jump on my phone rather than being fully present with my wife and son.
Even at this moment, I’m looking up random stuff on the Internet on how to best format HTML from an iPhone.
Here’s to getting back to life, the awkward tango between our distinct natures, one fully capable of mastering the breadth of human emotion and community and the other just looking for a good nap.