One thing John really, really wanted for Christmas was a doll.
He already has a "stuffed-animal" type doll, a boy in a baseball hat and overalls in that all-over pale blue peculiar to Gund products. About a year ago, he named it Chang. Chang was cuddled, diapered, fed, doctored, and feted with a first birthday party (complete with spinach pizza, his favorite) for many months. But after awhile, John wanted something a little more...pink.
"Mom, write this on my list," he'd say as Christmas approached. "I want a doll with a stroller and a car seat and a high chair and a cradle, with clothes and pajamas, and a bottle, and when you lie it down she closes her eyes, and there's a carrying case that carries everything in it. Write that down."
I've read in "How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk" that a great way to show that you're listening to your child is to write what he's saying down. It worked well for us for Christmas -- instead of walking through a store while I'm trying to run errands and listening to John holler, "Mom! Mom! I want this! Mom, Mom! LOOKIT!" I had him remember what he wanted and then tell me later so I could write it down. So now any time he wants me to listen, or if he thinks he's saying something important, he says, "Mom, write this down!"
Anyway, so John wanted a doll for Christmas. The closer we got, the more it became clear that this was the ONE thing he wanted. So, uh, Santa went to Target and found a doll with PJs, a tippy cup, a nuk, little pretend food bowls and utensils, all in a carrying case.
On Christmas Eve, we went to Grandma A's house. Matt's family opens presents on Christmas Eve (I know! The horror!), and Maia got some doozies. A cuddly soft doll. A high chair. A cradle. Blankets and pillows. Her doll had a nuk.
John, I must say, was a really good sport. It was plainly visible that he thought the doll was coming his way, and instead he was stuck with, pff, a remote control car and stuff like that. He valiantly struggled between wanting to mess with Maia's doll and being a good big brother and keeping out of it.
The next morning, when John and Maia came down the stairs back at our house, there was John's doll and all her fiddly accoutrements spread out below the tree. Santa had brought Maia a stuffed bear. Both kids went for the baby.
"Mine!" hollered Maia. "Mine! MINE!"
"Wait, Maia, no, it HAS MY NAME ON IT!" yelled John, in delight (at his doll) and dismay (at the possibility of Maia edging him out once again).
Christmas morning degenerated from there. We spent the day separating the kids from each other's dolls and said more times than I can count, "This is JOHN's doll. This is MAIA's doll. No, this is JOHN's doll. Maia, this is YOUR doll."
Halfway through the morning, Matt said, "Well, that's what you get when you mess with gender roles."
Since then, the guardians have settled down with their charges and domestic bliss has been restored. John named his baby Sarah, and Maia named her baby Khaki, following John's tradition of giving your first doll a name that no one is sure where it came from.
Both children are good parents. Maia will stand for 10 minutes, rocking from foot to foot while patting her baby on the back. For awhile I was stumped as to where she picked that up, since she's never seen me hold a baby. Then I realized she must see that at day care in the baby room. She rocks back and forth while talking to us or just looking out the window.
John is a devoted and concerned father, most of the time. One day when I went to wake him up, he was already awake, looking concerned and cuddling Sarah.
"She's not feeling well," he said. "Her forehead's hot and she didn't sleep very well." Sure enough, Sarah was sick, so we did what we could.
While his room is messy, he enjoys keeping Sarah's things together in the carrying case. And when kids were over for his birthday party, he worried about letting Sarah stay out (because he knew he didn't need to be embarrassed about his favorite toy) or putting her case behind a pillow so no one would see (because unfortunately, some people just don't understand). We also recently got the "Free to Be You and Me" soundtrack, and he likes the song "William's Doll."
The other night, as I was putting him to bed and tucking him in, I didn't see Sarah. "Where is she?" I asked.
He looked around, then rolled his eyes. "There she goes again," he said. "Sometimes she creeps away at night and has nighttime adventures."
"Really?" I said, imagining Sunny from the Lemony Snicket books. "What kind of adventures?"
"I don't know," he said. "It's at night. She creeps away. I don't know what she does."