My two daughters are accidentally-on-purpose 5 ½ years apart. We waited until our oldest was 3 before trying for a second, but it accidentally took 2 ½ years for her to arrive.
Why? To be cliché about it, life happened. Specifically, “delay of game” orders due to Zika virus and surgery to repair a broken toe, unexpected infertility, a devastating miscarriage, and, finally, our rainbow pregnancy all happened. Our second daughter was 2 ½ years in the making but unquestionably worth the wait.
Moving from one to two is hard. Moving from one to two with 5 ½ years in between is a different hard. It means pressing the “Reset” button. Love sleeping through the night again? RESET. Don’t have to pay for diapers and formula anymore? RESET. That booster seat is so much easier than an infant carrier, isn’t it? RESET. The Reset is real. It’s jarring. People tell you it will pass but, it doesn’t really, because your kids will always be in the divided worlds of “little kid” and “big kid” more dramatically than kids born closer together.
The world of siblings anticipates a closer age gap. From double strollers and car seat expiration dates, to “Bring all your kids, 0 – 5!!” events, it’s clearly not expected that siblings might fall wildly along a number line. Hiring a babysitter? They’ll have to juggle the different needs of infant and big kid. They’ll play dress up, change diapers, handle two different bedtimes, two very different levels of independence, and competing needs for attention.
There are amazing benefits of this twist of timing, too:
• Extra hands. My 6-year-old (“6-AND-A-HALF!” she’d tell you) is a professional big sister. In the early days, she’d grab things for me when I nursed, pumped, or changed the baby. Lately, she sings songs to baby sister to make her smile, helps replace a dropped binkie in the car while I’m driving, holds sister’s hand as we walk into swim lessons. It’s the best. Ever.
• My older daughter still firmly resides in Tantrum Town and it can be hard to pull her back. Baby sis often gets the job done, typically with a tension-releasing goofy gesture or exclamation.
• Small things are big again. Even better, big sister gets to share in the wonderment that comes from the newness of everything in a baby’s world.
• Each of my kids are part-time only children. My oldest had just started kindergarten when sister was born. While she’s at school, I have the opportunity to spend one on one time with baby. Big kid has her big kid activities, baby has her baby activities, and when my husband and I divide-and-conquer, we each get to play with and love our girls as individuals.
This big-ish age gap is not for the faint hearted. It’s challenging and complicated. It takes extra planning yet demands flexibility. But the rewards – their genuine love for each other, the uniqueness of their personalities – is worth it times a million.
Accidentally or on purpose.