“Are they Dragon Phoenix Twins?” I am asked every day, everywhere, and by everyone around me in Chengdu. “Yes, they are,” I reply.
“Waaaaa” they exclaim with glee, and huge smiles, “You are very lucky. How happy you must be.”
Twins generate as much or dare I say more excitement here in China as anywhere else; in particular, the Dragon / Phoenix (boy/girl) combination. The ancient Chinese emperor was symbolised by a Dragon, and his wife by a Phoenix. And so since boy / girl twins have the honour of being called the Dragon and Phoenix, they are associated with being at the top of the hierarchy, the best outcome possible, and so the highest blessing.
Total strangers seem genuinely happy for me, and always remind me of the gift of having them. They smile, caress the children, and try to carry them. Almost without fail I am told: “how cute, what curly hair, and big eyes they have.” This line sometimes reminds me of the scene where the wolf pretends he is Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother.
But I have yet to come across someone who is envious or jealous. This is amazing considering the One-Child Policy in China.
Quite the opposite in fact. People here associate twins with joy and luck to such a degree that almost no one seems to realise that at times raising two same-age babies can be tricky and tiring.
Our ayi (nanny ) once asked, “Isn’t it strange that out of all the people who stop to talk to you and the children, no one ever mentions how much work it must be to take care of them?!” This came up on a day when both L and R were sick and in need of extra attention. My husband was out of town for work. Our ayi and I were exhausted and had to laugh at that thought.
Only once, a mum playing with her two year old son in the kids area of a neighbouring housing complex asked if I wasn’t exhausted taking care of two. Almost immediately the three mums around us responded for me: “It’s pure joy to have two, and especially if they are a Dragon and a Phoenix.”
Had my Chinese been better, I would have answered myself: True I complain at times because I am tired from lack of sleep, or irritated by L and R’s constant hair pulling, biting, snatching… But man am I happy to have my Dragon and Phoenix.
How would you have answered the mum in the park?