We Are Both Right

Best Sibling Spacing – Bigger is Better Than We Thought

©Runabout

When it comes to sibling spacing, a break between kids might not be such a bad idea. ©Runabout

I was an only child. Until I wasn’t.

I was one month shy of turning nine years old when my little sister was born, and was over eleven when my brother showed up. While I loved having the full attention of my parents, I also loved being a big sister and adored my younger siblings. Still, when it was time for me to start planning out my own family with my husband, we were more inclined to go the traditional route, and our first two kids were born a little over two years apart.

Everything was great. The children, while not immune to the normal sibling squabbles, were ultimately friends. And while there are certain perils to having two young children very close in age (diapers, tantrums and an overflow of talking Elmo dolls spring to mind), it was also a lot of fun.

For a while, T. and I talked about adding a third to the mix. But life kind of happened and soon enough we found ourselves out and about with no diaper bag, no sippy cups and  no large assortment of baby gear in our then-smaller car. It was nice.

For those of you have been reading this blog for a while (thanks!), you know what happened next. Short version? The day my daughter started kindergarten I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant. Five minutes. Two lines. Three kids. The return of the diaper bag.

While  I had lots to freak out about in those early days, one of my concerns was definitely about the spacing of our kids. We were doing so well, how would an infant fit into our little unit?  Having been the eldest sibling in a widely-spaced family, I knew the benefits, but I knew the downside too. Sure, I’d have two little mommy’s helpers at my beck and call. But would my two older children be as close to their little brother as they were to each other? I thought having a little (little) sister and brother was awesome, but I admit, there were times in their lives that I missed out on because I was busy doing my own things — going to college, getting married, having my own kids.

Two years after S. was born, I’m happy to report that my fears so far have been unfounded. S. is one of the beaming lights in C. and A.’s lives. They are sad when he isn’t awake when they leave for school and he is the first person they ask for when they walk in the door. They help me with him a lot sure, but more often than not, without my asking, they’ll be bringing him outside to play or plop him on the couch to read to him. They love being with him and he thinks they are the sun, the moon and all the stars.

Every day I’m amazed by my kids’ capacity to love. Would it have been on such display if their sibling was one or three years younger instead of eight and six? I’m certain it would have existed, but I don’t know if I would have seen in in such abundance.

How did you space out your children? Do you have any regrets?

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Suzanne’s kids are five years apart and she couldn’t be happier.

Mind the (Sibling Age) Gap

What do the numbers mean? Are bigger sibling age gaps any better than having them close together? ©Kriss Szkurlatowski/stock.xchng

Whether siblings are spaced seven minutes or seven years apart, there are ups and downs to every age gap — no matter how you do the math.

My children are 5.01 years apart (that’s five years, five weeks if I divided right). And there are plenty of days when that adds up just perfectly.

They have enough space in between them that there’s not much competition. At the same time, my son loves to instruct his little sister in all of his favorite pursuits, like baseball, wrestling, fishing and football. And she adoringly follows his lead every step of the way.

I’d like to think that having her around makes him more patient (on most days). And it’s not just her that he has to tolerate.  All little kids gravitate toward him and he doesn’t seem to mind.

I had to laugh when the mom of one of his baseball teammates came up to me as we were marching in the opening day parade, just to say that when she picks up her son and daughter from their after-school program, she is touched by the fact that L. makes a point of sharing how well her five-year-old is batting each day. I heard the same thing from another friend’s mom, who said she doesn’t feel bad about her little one hanging around on playdates because L. always makes him feel included. Which is funny considering that my son is 5’2″ at 8 years old and most often isn’t a match for kids his own age, never mind a child years younger.

Ah, our gentle giant. Still, I worry when I hear him in the next room calling for his sister (just over three feet tall) to surrender in a wrestling match.

At times, I wonder if having back-to-back babies, less than two years apart, would have been better. It would mean twice the work, but all the diapers and potty training would be consolidated. All of the toys at any given time would be age-appropriate — no worries about Nerf darts wandering into the baby’s crib. And the children would be a perfect pair of playmates for each other.

But I have to say that as much as it would have been nice to have them be slightly closer in age, I think a gap of between two and five years gives everyone the space they need to develop as individuals and yet have a strong sibling bond.

From a parent’s point of view, the five year gap gave me and my husband some time to take things slow and learn the ropes. We placed all of our attention squarely on L. for five solid years (and then finally gave him a break!). But seriously, I have to think that he enjoyed being an “only child” for a while.

We also had a chance to recover from the intense infant years and gave our backs a rest from toting baby gear everywhere. There were even three whole months with no day care tuition (woo-hoo) since S. arrived the month L. started kindergarten.

In the time since, she’s benefitted from having her fair share of attention because her brother is mostly self-sufficient and there haven’t been any other babies around.

So I guess we found the right answer for our family, but how about you? What’s the best age gap between siblings in your opinion, and is it what you have — or what you wish you had?

If you hadn’t guessed, Amanda and I are both first-born (that explains a lot, right?). And we each had a significant age gap between us and our youngest sibling.  To me, that meant another student in my pretend classroom and an impressionable actor to direct in my homegrown plays. For Amanda, it turned out to be a road map to parenting.