When we decided to start a family we had two goals. We wanted three children. My husband came from a family of four children and I came from one of two. As adults, my brother lived overseas so I often wished for another sibling to hang out with. Three seemed a good compromise – and we could all fit into a car without investing in a people mover. The second goal was to have them close together. I wanted our kids to play and grow up together and minimise the time I took off from work and my career. Get in, have my babies, check that off my life to-do list and get out – simple I thought.
After conceiving our daughter after just one month of trying, I thought our plan was well on track. Of course when you have everything sorted out in your head, life has a funny way of messing with it a bit. It then took us seven years to have our second child. We went through all the fertility tests and were diagnosed with secondary infertility. There was a specific issue and we ended up being on the waiting list for IVF. That story itself is enough for another post so I won’t elaborate too much, but in 2006 we had a little boy and a seven-year gap between our children. Looking back, a lot of my anxiety around our infertility was the widening gap it meant between children. I kept thinking that the larger the gap, the less they would have in common. Maybe they wouldn’t even get on or be able to relate to each other.
When our baby boy bounced into our lives my seven-year-old daughter fell in love at first sight. She absolutely adored her brother. Today, now seven and 14, they are still extremely close. My daughter has always been a bit of a clown and a performer, my son is a lot shyer but loves watching a show, so she has found the perfect audience. He is more than happy to sit back and laugh at all her jokes and antics. He thinks she is amazing. At seven he knows how to yank her chain a little now and if mum and dad are around he won’t tolerate being bossed around by her anymore. However he does accept her authority if we are out and she is the babysitter. The difference in ages is a real advantage here as it clearly defines who is in charge and they rarely fight.
I never would have dreamed that having such a big gap would turn out so well. In hindsight, all that anxiety I put myself through, although understandable, was fruitless. Of course there are compromises my husband and I have had to make along the way. Getting back to work stretched out a lot longer and now with one child in high school and another at primary, the juggling of buses and school events can be tricky. We have to be careful of the TV and movies we watch, shows that we wouldn’t have let our daughter watch at seven are often seen by our son. As a family we have to remember that along with the three (almost) adults, we have a small person as well. We have to actively look for family outings that could cater to a broader age group of children – museums, zoos and Kelly Tarlton’s were always a winner, but Wiggles concerts weren’t.
I have to be careful about letting my son get away with not helping, or taking responsibility for himself. With a much older and more capable sibling on hand it is easier to just ask my daughter to do things and my son was very happy to let her. We are actively addressing that imbalance now he is a little older.Being the only child at primary school has definitely helped him take responsibility and break out of his shell more. He has to take the notices home, remember school mufti day and ask his teacher about details we are not sure of, which if his sister was still at school he would never have had to worry about. I like the fact that this is teaching him resilience and confidence.
My daughter has had to adjust to sharing her parents with her little brother after having us to herself for so long. I’m glad to say she has never showed any jealousy towards him and I think secretly values having an ally against us. I imagine they will still be secretly complaining about their ‘olds’ together when they are adults and we are hitting our senile years. That thought makes me smile.
We would love to hear if you have also had a big gap between your children and how you have found that journey for your family.