The kids’s comprehension has grown exponentially in the last month or so, especially Okra. He was the one who did not understand as much as Bunny in the past. Now he has caught up and even surpassed her in some areas. It has been a lot of fun and a joy to see that they make connections and associations with concepts and ideas. They do things like following two-step directions (e.g. Go pick up the carrot and give it to mommy) or turning a book right side up when I tell them that it’s upside down. About a month ago Okra showed interest in the pictures of our maternity shoot that are hanging on the nursery wall. He pointed at the photos and I’d tell him that Annie Yee Yee (Auntie Annie in Cantonese) and mommy are in them. From then on, whenever I ask where Annie Yee Yee is, he points at the photos. I figure since the kids know body parts such as tummy, I started telling them about who Annie Yee Yee is. I say, “See Annie Yee Yee’s big tummy? You guys were inside of her when she was carrying you both for mommy. There is Okra, and there is Bunny.” I said that a few times when they were standing in the cribs after listening to their nap time and bed time stories. I didn’t expect them to understand or remember what I said for a while. To my surprise, these kids actually know what’s going on. A couple of days ago, after I changed Bunny’s diaper, I asked her where Annie Yee Yee was. She pointed at the photos. I asked her who was inside of Annie Yee Yee’s tummy. She patted on her own chest and smiled! Wow I was impressed. I thought it was a one off, so I tried it later again, this time with Okra. After their nap time story before putting them down, I asked both of them who was inside of Annie Yee Yee’s tummy, and both of them patted on their own chest. I don’t think Okra was copying Bunny. I feel that they both knew what I was talking about. At a few days shy of 16 months, that was not bad at all! I told Annie about it. It was so heartwarming for her to know that the kids are learning about her. This is our first step of telling the kids about their conception story. By about 18 months, I’ll gauge their comprehension skills and start talking about their egg donor. Hopefully by the time they fully understand the world around them, their conception story of egg donation and surrogacy will be a part of them as natural as breathing in air.
This past Christmas Bob and I started a discussion on how to handle the topic of Santa Claus with the kids. I used to laugh at the pictures of babies crying sitting on mall Santa’s laps until I have my own kids. I am not comfortable with the thought of placing my kids on the lap of a stranger. Unlike parents who grew up in the states and are used to taking their kids to the mall to meet Santa, we did not engage in that activity. One friend suggested that we can ask the kids in the future if they want their picture taken with Santa in the mall. More than a Kodak moment with a man with fake beard on, we wonder how to talk about Santa when the babies start to understand these things. Both Bob and I did not grow up in the United States, which means we did not grow up with the wonder of getting gifts from Santa and later discovering the truth. Growing up poor, I had always known that Christmas meant having a good meal on Christmas day (the one and only fancy meal in the year) and nothing else. Bob was from a Hindu household that did not celebrate Christmas. As Christ followers, we want our kids to focus on the meaning behind Christmas, which is the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. We wonder if we should engage in this fantasy of Santa Claus as parents who did not have first hand childhood experience of writing to Santa, leaving cookies and milk for Santa, and finding presents from Santa. More importantly, we wonder if focusing on Santa would take away from our focus on Jesus. I asked our pastor, our gestational carrier, and the kids’ godmother how they handle this topic. They all chose not to do Santa. Some chose to tell the kids about Saint Nicholas and why people celebrate him. Our pastor did say that he didn’t think it’s a bad thing to do, but just wants us to make sure that the kids understand Santa is not the most important. After discussing with Bob, we are leaning towards not doing Santa. Our kids are still young. We did have a Christmas tree and hung their special ornaments for this year: Okra’s is a fire truck (his favorite) and Bunny’s is a girl holding a book that said “I love reading”. The babies wore their Christmas pajamas and opened their presents on Christmas morning. We went to Christmas eve service and spent quality time with family. Other than that it was another low key Christmas with a few good presents and a whole lot of love going around. The babies didn’t quite get the art of ripping the wrapping papers and getting new toys. But we had a great time with them nonetheless. I am quite sure they will get much more excited next year.