The Beauty of a Wider Age Gap


Older sister holding a newborn baby.When my middle child was born, my oldest was two years old. She needed me at all hours of the day (and often at night). She couldn’t dress herself and she wasn’t quite potty trained. She needed me to fall asleep at night and for her 1:00 p.m. nap each day. She couldn’t make herself a snack or brush her own teeth. Toddlers require a LOT of hands-on participation. Additionally, she had become accustomed to having me as her playmate all day, every day. She was quite literally never alone (except to sleep – sometimes), and didn’t really know how to be.

Then we added an infant to this dynamic, who relied on me for nourishment and comfort and was naturally predisposed to be attached to me at all times. It was exhausting: physically, emotionally, mentally. It was, without question, the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Five years later, they love being close in age. They are thick as thieves. They share many of the same interests, enjoy the same activities and family outings, and like to watch the same movies. For these reasons, the thought of adding a third child now that they’re so much older seemed almost unfair to this hypothetical little one. He or she would always be left out of the goings on of their older siblings.

What I forgot to consider, however, was all the wonderful aspects of this now 5.5-year age gap. My youngest was born exactly three weeks after my middle started full-day kindergarten (and my oldest started third grade). From Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:50 a.m. and 3:25 p.m., nobody needs me except the baby. We bond, we nurse, we play, and he gets all the undivided attention that his older brother never did as an infant.

When my older two are home, they are my greatest helpers. They hold their brother when I need to cook dinner and he just won’t let me put him down (or in his bouncer chair or on his playmat or in his swing or in his crib). They entertain the baby when he gets fussy, showing him endless toys and books, singing him songs, and giving him hugs and kisses (both gentle and not so much).

When I am with the baby, they are mostly self-sufficient. They don’t need my help navigating the playground; they’re happy for baby and me to sit and watch. They can open the fridge and get their own snack after school, then sit down to do their homework independently. They are used to playing together without much involvement from me, so there’s no big change there. They can be trusted to play in the (fenced in) backyard safely. They don’t need to be held or carried; outings with them don’t require strollers or diapers or changes of clothes.

I try to make it a point to still read with them each night and lay with them before sleep, but occasionally baby’s needs make that impossible. When that happens, they are perfectly content to read on their own and put themselves to bed.

In the end, there are upsides and downsides to every age difference. But now I’m not so worried about my youngest being left out. He’ll have a different type of closeness with his brother and sister than the closeness they share with each other. He’ll have a unique bond with his dad and me. And he’ll have all of us protecting him fiercely always.


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