I grew up in a family where the children are of close age gap. My elder brother is one year older than me and my younger brother is two years younger than I am. My mum likes to say, “I had 3 kids in 4 years.”
With such a close age gap, my brothers and I were pretty much in the same stages of life most of the time. While we didn’t always get along when we were younger, we certainly shared a lot of fun times. We could relate to one another’s adolescence woes and we could relate to the trends that we grew up with.
Now that we are all grown up, we talk like friends and support one another in whatever we go through.
I love that my brothers and I are so close in age and wanted the same for my kids.
When Ben and I got married, we started planning for a family and we discussed about the age gap we wanted for our children.
“One year, maybe a little too close. Two years, hmm… Sounds manageable, good age gap.”
So that was our initial plan, until we found out we were going to relocate to the US for a couple of years.
My mum had told me upfront that she wouldn’t fly over to help me if I had a child there, because my dad’s health was in an unpredictable state. I thought about whether I would be able to cope if I had a baby in the US and while Phoebie was still a toddler. I guess the thought of not having help when I needed it, especially in the first few months after the baby is born, felt rather scary.
Ben and I had a discussion again and changed our plans. We shifted the age gap to three years instead. We figured that at three years old, Phoebie would be able to understand better and she would also be more independent then.
When I found out I was pregnant at the beginning of last year, I thought to myself, “Oh… Right on track.” Phoebie would have been exactly three years old when the baby was born.
Of course, things didn’t go as planned. We lost Billie when I was 9 weeks pregnant, and from there, we decided to put baby plans on hold for a little while.
We found out that we were pregnant with Breyen late last year, but with the experience with Billie, we took the pregnancy week by week and didn’t plan far ahead.
Of course, when Breyen arrived, we were overjoyed. By the time he was born, Phoebie was about three and a half years old. We had also used the entire time of the pregnancy to prepare her that she was going to become a big sister.
We read her books about becoming a big sister, and we taught her to talk to her baby brother before he was even born.
I don’t know how much of a difference it would have made in terms of us coping well, if we didn’t lose Billie. I’m not sure if half a year would have made a difference in Phoebie’s understanding towards having a new baby at home.
When I realize that I can enjoy my time alone with Breyen while Phoebie is in school though, I’m thankful that their age gap isn’t as close as my elder brother and I. I had my time alone with Phoebie when she was a tiny baby, and now that she is old enough for school, Breyen gets to enjoy that kind of time with me too. That wouldn’t have been possible if the age gap was one or two years.
Some of my friends have children who are only one year apart. A portion of these friends complain of how difficult it can be to cope because the older child is practically still a baby when the younger arrives, and the older child is too young to understand what it means to be an older sibling. The other portion of these friends enjoy the small difference in age because the children do everything together. One of my cousins whose boys are one and a half years apart even potty trained both her boys together!
Another group of my friends have their children at least four years apart. A few of these friends’ children are almost ten years apart. Some of these friends complain of how they have to do all the newborn things all over again when the older child is already independent. The rest of these friends enjoy the bigger age gap because the older child is old enough to understand and can even help with things like feeding the younger sibling or changing diapers for the baby brother or sister.
So what is the perfect age gap? Or is there even such a thing as a perfect age gap?
I used to think there is. Two years apart, that was my ideal age gap. The older child would be old enough to understand a little and is no longer a baby. Of course, things didn’t turn out the way I planned, but looking at where I am now, I’m actually glad Phoebie and Breyen are three and a half years apart.
I can’t say that the same age gap will work out the same way for other families, because every child’s character and level of understanding is different at the same age.
The perfect age gap, if you ask me now, is really what you make out of the age gap your children end up with.
You can have your children one year apart and deal with them well if you know how, or you can deal with them not as well and grumble about it.
You can have your children ten years apart and enjoy seeing two different stages of life, or you can complain that you’re looking after a newborn all over again.
The perfect age gap, as far as I see now, is how you choose to parent your children.
Your children can be one year apart and be completely torn by sibling rivalry, or they can be ten years apart and love each other to bits.
No matter what the age gap between your children is, it’s perfect if you think it is.