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?