Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Q&A: Child Spacing

Thank you all again for your thoughtful questions. I have seven more to answer, and I will try to get to at least one each week for the next little bit.

Today's question is from Katie:
What is the age difference in your kids, what's the easiest age span, the most difficult, and do you think those qualifications have more to do with months or with specific personalities?


When I was a freshman in high school, my older brother was a senior. We weren't close, but we were good to one another. One day, I was eating lunch with friends in a classroom when he appeared in the doorway, with tears in his eyes. My friends and the teacher in that room scattered, and I held my brother as tears ran down both our cheeks. He'd gotten the results of an important test, and they were devastating to him. He was worried about his future, and he turned for sympathy to his sister. At that moment, I realized the strength in the solid bonds of siblings.

The spacing between my kids is:
Lillian is 18 months exactly older than Joseph.
Joseph is 18 months and one week older than Michael.
Michael is 2 years and 2 months older than Allison and Sarah.
Allison is 7 minutes older than Sarah (but don't tell her that; we tell them they're the same age!)
Sarah and Allison are 2 years and 4 months older than Eliza.
Eliza is 21 months older than Harmony.
Harmony is 21 months older than Katie.
Katie will be 21 months older than our newest baby.

For those of you who are keeping track, that's three in three years, five in five years, and soon to be eight in eleven years.

However, in some ways I've experienced lots of different age spans, because I've been able to see how all of my kids interact with the new baby, not just the youngest. So I've gotten to watch how a three-year-old and a six-year-old respond to a new baby as well as a nine-year-old and I've seen the relationships that develop between my children.

I'm of the opinion that many different spacings work fine. Joseph has a special bond with Eliza, for example, and they are six years apart. Their birthdays are just a few days apart, and when we were asking Joey what he wanted for his birthday that year, his first response was "A new baby!" Even now, three years later, we call Eliza "Joey's birthday present," and tease him that that's why they're so close.

I do think that personalities have a lot to do with the bonds between children. Lillian and Joey had a really hard time getting along his first two years of life. He has a very strong personality, and she wanted to be the leader in their relationship. There was no way he was going to follow her lead! It wasn't until after Michael was born that they finally worked out a truce, and their relationship has been strong ever since. Eliza is so easy-going and endearing that everyone in our family adores her; there is absolutely no rivalry where she is concerned.

I've also found that my children almost always respond very well to the addition of a new baby. Especially in the early years, I used to worry about rivalry and feelings of displacement when the new baby came home, but I think the only hard thing for some of them was that mom was gone for two days at the hospital. They seemed to welcome the new baby with love, or at least indifference. The rivalry I worried about doesn't occur until six months later, when the new baby starts to crawl and range into their territory. Even Eliza, one of my easiest and kindest children, had a tough time when Harmony started crawling. All of a sudden the baby isn't just an object anymore; it's a rival for toys and attention. The change can be overwhelming to a little person secure in her world.

In the short run, it is definitely easier on the mother to have kids further apart. The older the first one is when the next is born, the less work is involved. The older one can entertain themselves, for instance, and even be somewhat helpful with the younger one. In the long run, though, I think there are so many advantages to having children close in age. They can be real friends, be involved in some of the same activities, and really be there for one another. It has been wonderful for me to watch the friendship develop between my children close in age.

But I also understand that planning and spacing our children is both a luxury and often an illusion. Those who have struggled with infertility will tell you of their best plans going by the wayside and about learning to be content with whatever spacing they get. Others will tell you of the wonderful bond between them and a sibling who is much older or younger in age.

It's also interesting to see how birthdays and school spacing enter into the equation. My first three are eighteen months apart, but Lillian is two grades ahead of Joey, and Joey and Michael are just a year apart in school. It's been good for them, as they can share some of their friends and play together at recess sometimes. Eliza and Harmony are almost two years apart in age, but because of the way their birthdays fall in October and August, they will also be just a year apart in school.

In our family, we haven't tried to plan our spacing. I do want my children close in age, partly so I can get them here while I'm still young and strong enough to chase after them, and partly because of the friendships I want them to develop. I remember a doctor asking about one of my pregnancies, "Now, was this a planned pregnancy?" The question took us aback, because, well, it wasn't NOT planned, but it wasn't really planned, either. I know that's an ambivalent answer, but the long and short of it is, we've decided in our family to simply let our children come, trusting that Heavenly Father is wiser than we are. Sometimes that's been sooner than we would have chosen, sometimes later, but we have felt every time that it was the right time.

What's been your experience with the spacing and bonds between your children? How have their personalities entered the equation?

9 comments:

3in3mom said...

Well, I am among the "infertility and so content when the come crowd". At the same time we are much like you. We have let them come when HF sends them. I love the spacing we have with our three. They are very close

oldest and second 5 months seperation (adoption) and then the third is 26 months after. So three in three years.

We feel it has been a blessing and a challenge. We love that they are close. We have such seen such a special bond among them for different reasons. If my daughter has her way we'd have a sister TODAY. We'll see what the Lord has in store.

In my family growing up there was 5 in 7 years and we were glad to be so close, though to ask my mom she could barely breathe in the HS years. I am grateful for each sibling in different ways.

I think more important than the spacing is the effort in making lasting bonds with and between each child.

I love your Q and As

swedemom said...

Such a great post! I really liked your comment that spacing our children can really be an illusion. I don't know as spacing necessarily creates or hampers bonds between kids. I think spacing impacts the parents more.

My three boys are close in age. It was a challenging time when they were all so little and spent so much time caring for their every need. And they got into a lot of mischief. The arguments and conflicts between the boys have not really been related to age but more personality differences. I had felt so strongly with each boy that they needed to come to our family as soon as possible. At the time I didn't understand those feelings. At times I questioned those feelings when I was in the midst of a lot of work trying to take care of them.

But a few months after my 3rd son was born, the reason for their close spacing became very clear. I was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease. One of the first things my doctor warned me against was getting pregnant again. I was very ill. I had to come to terms with the fact that I might never have another child again. Suddenly, I was profoundly grateful for the close spacing of my children, realizing that they indeed needed to come to our family as quickly as possible, despite the challenges of having such small children so closely together.

There is a much larger gap between my daughter and my 3rd son. It took time for me to regain my health. At times I was so anxious to press forward, secure in the knowledge that surely it was a good thing to desire another child. But the realization that my boys needed a healthy and whole mother was more important than another baby added to the mix helped me be content with the wait.

K said...

Great post, Christina. Thank you for being so open with us about such personal matters.

Mommy Matters said...

Most of mine are spaced close. Our biggest gaps are due to dh's vasectomy and then reversal, and then we have another gap because of two m/c's. I like them close and find it easier...it keeps me in the "baby groove" so to speak. After a gap I start to move on and forget what it is like having a baby around, then when we have a new baby I'm shocked at all that I forgot about babies.

Like you I worried in the begining about spacing, but I've not found any spacing to be a problem. We also make the new baby "OUR baby", "our" as in the WHOLE family. Kids go to the ob with me, they cram into the u/s room even when the staff complains and says their isn't enough room - which is never an acceptable answers beaucse there is ALWAYS room for more ~and that's a rule in our house...lol! They come for the birth, they are included in about everything that they want to be included~ which is everything...lol.

I also have a difficult time answering the "planned pg" question too. We don't really "plan" but that doesn't me their was an intent to UNplan either....it wasn't a mistake just because we didn't actually say "hey, let's have another baby right now!" and docs don't seem to get that. I hate to make it sound casual or trite, but we're pretty laid back about having more, we're okay with letting them come, when they come. That doesn't mean we didn't WANT another, it just means we're comfortable with letting things happen naturally. We've ttc, and we've avoided at times, but for the most part we don't do anything. It's amazing how I can get pg when I don't think I will and then not get pg when I do think I will....just a reminder about who's in controll, as far as I'm concerned.

Cherie said...

We've been very fortunate to have our children close together. I was adopted and am 7 1/2 years younger than my closest sibling. We weren't terribly close. However, I had 4 older siblings that were born within 5 years of each other, and they have a great bond. I wanted that for my children.
Our first two kids are 15 months apart, then the next two are 20 months apart, and then the next two are 21 months apart.
If it were up to me all of the kids would be 15 months apart. It's not "super simple" to have a bunch of younger kids, but it does pay off! 15 month olds do just enough to make it not too difficult... they can pretty much feed themselves, play quietly for a little bit, and wait a moment while you take care of something for a newborn. We're obviously not in control of spacing, we've had to learn some patience as we're noticing that our kids are spacing out a little more. I'm not too concerned about things though. My kids are great friends. They have their squabbles here and there, but they love each other and having companions.
We feel pretty strongly that our oldest two have such a great bond because they're so close to one another. I doubt our oldest can ever remember a time where he was an only child, and I think that's advantageous. Our kids have always had to learn to share and figure out relationships, so even though I get apprehensive about how a child will feel about a new baby, they always surprise us with tender love. (I have too experienced the great change that happens when they start getting mobile and brothers/sisters toys look fun), but it's such a great learning experience for everyone!

My statement to others is, if you can have them close, then I highly recommend it! (Oh, but be prepared for confused looks on other people's faces in addition to such choice statements as "are they all yours?" "you sure have your hands full" etc.... and these statements come even if your kids are behaving like perfect angels!")

Jen said...

I don't remember exactly how I stumbled across your blog, but I did...and I LOVE reading it! I hold you in high esteem to have that much more patience that is required to have many children than is required to have just a few children - as my two tax my patience regularly.

I am one of those mom's that started out thinking I was a fertile baby maker as I hadn't so much as thought about trying to get pregnant and there we were pregnant! So, we waited about 3 years *trying* to space out our children only to find that once I stopped using any kind of birth control, I wasn't meant to get pregnant for a few more years yet ! Our boys are 9 years apart! And it was many many years of *trying* that deepened my sympathies for all the women in the world who so badly want to have children and can't for one reason or another. But Heavenly Father saw fit to finally bless me with another baby boy.

The dyanmics between my now 11 year old and now 2 year old are amazing! They are great friends - though the older sometimes mother's the younger and I have to remind them WHO Mom really is...but they play nicely, I can count on the older to watch out for the younger one and even babysit for a few minutes at a time, the younger one - who happens to be a bit more adventerous - has even taught his older brother a thing or two in broadening his horizons and trying new things. It's been great and I realize that Heavenly Father truly does know what is best for us and what we as his daughters can handle. I definately needed this span of years between my boys and that just means that I get to have an "active" role as a mom for that much longer!

Thank you for being an inspiration as a mother of many - I know if you can handle it - then I most definately don't have anything to complain about!

Susanb said...

I have 6 children and am expecting my 7th in January. The range in age from 13 to 24 months. My oldest was 2 and a half when his sister was born. He was a bit of a handful (he was diagnosed with autism at 3)but having a new baby around seemed to calm him down. He wwas facinated. My next son arrived 26 months after my daughter. And due to an early delivery and an emergency c-section my second daughter arrived 3 months early to make her and my second son 17 months apart. There is a break there where I took time off from having kids. I then met my current husband and since he didn't have any kids and I still wanted more we started our family together. My third son was born 4 years and 2 months after my second daughter. Then 14 months later along came my third daughter. She will be 28 months old when her baby brother arrives. My closest spacings seem to be the closest emotionally. Number 3 and 4played really well together up until recently when girls have gotten "yucky". They are only one year apart in school and because of their abilities they seem more like twins sometimes. The last two are only 14 months apart but will be 2 years apart in school. That will be a tough one. Little missy is ahead of her brother in so many things. I'm sure it will all work out in the end. The pattern of my births alternate between boys and girls. Yes, the next one is a boy. It would be interesting to see children of the same sex be born after each other in my home. i wonder how they would get along?

Jenna Consolo said...

Love this answer! I am the oldest of 9, and all nine were born in under 13 years, with no twins. I can see positive and negative in the different spacing between us and amongst us, as you say. The saddest thing I guess was that I got married at 18, and moved away, and the youngest was only 5. The youngest 3 siblings really have no memory of me living at home at all, even though I clearly remember them, and now we live so far apart geographically, that it's almost like we broke off into the "older kids" and the "younger kids".

I think you are so, so blessed to have a husband equally yoked in the idea of allowing Heavenly Father to decide the size of your family. I think there are many women (myself included) that would have more children if the husband had more faith about this issue.

Lempskies said...

Mine are 3 yrs apart, 2 yrs , and 4 yrs. I like 3 yrs best.
2 yrs or less is hard b/c it is tough potty training while either pregnant or nursing. (At least, it is for me.) I wouldn't have chosen the younger 2 to be 4 years apart, but we had consecutive 2nd trimester losses, so that's just the way it was.
We are not sure if we want to try for more. We LOVE being parents, but feel like we were pushing our luck to get 4 babies out of 7 pregnancies (b/c of the losses & a blood clotting disorder I had to do daily shots & it was considered a high-risk pregnancy). The youngest is now 1. We'll see how we feel in a year or so. I'm not of the camp that believes you should not try to space b/c God will just send you as many as you are supposed to have. I think decisions of when and how many children to have are decisions the couple should consciously make together.
But if a couple chooses to have a very large family, close spacing is usually necessary to achieve the number desired in prime child-bearing years.
Good for you for loving and caring so well for your family.

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