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Never Mind the Age Gap

by Twitchy on March 11, 2014

Recently I contributed a post at Easy Peasy Kids for my friend Nathalie, on people’s perceptions (and comments) regarding ages of siblings. Following on from that I thought I’d share a more personal view as the mother of a boy and girl with a few years between them.

Our boy Mr14, was born in late 1999. Within a week of our first anniversary, his arrival on the scene was fairly hasty; he’d chosen his timing and there was no negotiation. I was still in my twenties and a good thing too- as it became quickly evident a great deal of youthful vigour was required for his care. Mr Twister was only one of our nicknames for this non-stop bundle of physicality; a fidget, a climber and a daredevil was he.

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Though it was crazy for us we just had to make do. My husband travelled extensively at this time and was overseas on a regular basis. There was little we could do about that either. A less-than-ideal course was set and this is how our little family began.

When my boy was about three, I knew having two youngsters in our circumstances wouldn’t be manageable- certainly not for long stretches on my own. Besides, any future babe-in-arms was in danger of being dropped on its head as I sprinted after the danger-magnet brother. It would be another two years before our suspicions were confirmed that our boy’s brand of energy was beyond the ordinary. The more physically adept and ambitious he became, the more nerve-wracking it was.

We agreed he’d have to be headed for school before we could invite another visit from the Stork. A few other difficult factors came into play and before I knew it my boy was five. This is when I started to worry. I didn’t just worry, I fretted. My boy was to start school. How much more time could pass before “the gap” became too wide? I felt sad and guilty. Not just for him but for me and any future child getting further and further behind. At times I was desperate, sleepless and teary. Not helping were questions and comments from people, such as “why would we make him an only child?”  I mean, how did they get to decide that?

Then, as her older brother prepared to begin Grade 2, in January 2007 our baby girl arrived. There were seven years, two months between them. Though ecstatic to have my “pigeon pair” (“But we don’t even HAVE any birds, Mummy!”) I still had my concerns. Would they grow together? Would they relate to one another? Could they ever be close?

A friend of mine with seven years between she and her sister said it was really nothing and I wanted to believe her, as she was the younger. An acquaintance with seven siblings said age has nothing to do with dynamics anywhere near as much as personality. He was closest with one brother, with whom there were five siblings between. I wanted to believe him too.

Now I can tell you this: if there is one thing I regret, it is all the time I spent worrying so much. My two (especially being an older brother with a younger sister), have far less of a “gap” than you would imagine. It comes together so quickly! She is a switched-on little firecracker gaining on her brother all the time. Girls seem to do that. Both my friends were right. It is not age, it is who they are. (Unlike his sister, my boy still enjoys solitude.) Even so, the seven years is simply not an issue. In fact, given who they both are I’d go so far as to say it’s perfect. I was able to enjoy each baby at a time, without the stress of both in nappies, on conflicting schedules.

My two are close and affectionate, love each other and bicker with as much intensity as any brother and sister can. I have a darling friend with ten years between her two and they have as beautiful and close a relationship as any siblings I’ve seen.

My advice to anyone in a similar position of worry, is to take heart and ease up on yourself. Most of us are just accustomed to siblings born closer together. That doesn’t mean it’s the only way it can work.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Steph March 26, 2014 at 10:34 am

My sisters were 18,16 and 12 when I was born (no I wasn’t planned!) and I always had a very close relationship with my eldest sister. But I think thats cos she was a school teacher and good with kids plus she is close with all of us so I think you are right about personalities rather then age gaps. Though, not growing up with my sisters at home did make me feel like an only child a bit 🙂

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Grace March 16, 2014 at 2:00 pm

So true, Twitchy. We automatically assume years apart means lack of closeness. While being a mum of twins, you’d think I’d support the counter argument. But, my eldest brother is 10 years older than me and we grew up being very close. So I get what you’re saying. Absolutely.

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Lucy @ Bake Play Smile March 15, 2014 at 6:03 pm

I totally agree with you! I see so many of the kids in my grade who have much older or younger brothers or sisters and they have such a wealth of knowledge/experience from it! The ones with older siblings learn so much from them and the ones with much younger siblings tend to be so caring and nurturing. xx

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Twitchy March 15, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Lucy that’s a lovely observation and great to hear 🙂

Pinky Poinker March 14, 2014 at 5:03 pm

It’s so true about personality mattering more than age. My second son is 22 and his younger sister (no.5) is 17. They get on better than any of the others!

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Twitchy March 15, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Wonderful. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to have a choice of siblings to bond with, rather than just the one. (Take him or leave him 😉 )

Trish MLDB March 14, 2014 at 3:00 pm

I have 13yrs between my eldest and the twins 1min (between twins). Though he chose less than ideal movies , they have a loving bond with their brother and adore him.

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Twitchy March 14, 2014 at 4:25 pm

And they have each other- a winning combo I’m sure 🙂

Tat March 14, 2014 at 10:17 am

It’s fantastic that it’s all worked out for you. I get fascinated watching my youngest two. They only have three years between them, but you’d think 3 years is a lot at their age. Yet, they seem to love the same things, are entertained by the same games… the only way you can tell the difference when they are together is because one is much bigger than the other one and can talk.

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Kirsten McCulloch March 12, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Great post Twitchy! I have only 4 and a bit years between my first two, but at the time I worried. Now I have an 8 year gap between kidlet 1 & kidlet 3, and they get along fine and I think as they grow up will likely have a closer friendship than kid 1 & 2 (though 2 & 3 – also almost 4 years apart) also get along beautifully.

I do think you’re right, temperament plays into it a LOT. There are pros and cons of any age gap, near or far, but in the end, it’s only a very small part of what influences their experiences.

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Tegan March 11, 2014 at 8:13 pm

There is 11.5 years between my brother and I. Mum said they tried for the first 5 years and nothing happened so they just let things be. Then along came my brother. I can still remember my mum telling me and I told her to stop joking around lol! One of the issues we had growing up was the dirty looks I used to receive because people assumed he was mine. I used to dote on him (and baby sat him during school holidays while my mum went to work). We are probably ‘closer’ now than we were when I was younger..mainly because when I was still at home we were both at difficult ages..

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Bec @ The Plumbette March 11, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Fantastic post! I have friends who have tried for the second and sometimes the timing extends out to what they thought would be the perfect age gap between their children. There is 2.5 years between my first two and 17 months (unplanned!) between my second and third. I get a lot of comments from friends and mums and playgroup that the close age gap will mean my kids will be best friends. I love that despite the bigger age gap between your two, it hasn’t meant they aren’t close. This is a great post for mums in a similar situation to you who worry about their kids not getting along together because of an age gap, which unfortunately, you can’t control. x

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Twitchy March 11, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Thank you Bec. I hope to show that there is no right or wrong way and despite what they plan and what turns out, I hope that helps people.

EssentiallyJess March 11, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Love this Twitchy. I’m the youngest of four with eleven, fourteen and sixteen years between me and my sisters. I was quite close with the youngest of them as I grew but not the others, but that was because they left home when I was so young. And admittedly, none of our family is close so it’s no wonder really. I agree that it’s personality, as well as how much you’re encouraged to enjoy each others company.

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Twitchy March 11, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Wow, that’s diverse!

Bec Lines March 11, 2014 at 12:33 pm

I am the eldest of four siblings and there is 11 years between myself and my youngest sibling. We all get on well but it took me a while to not mother my younger two siblings so much being both 7years and 11 years younger than me. For my four kids I have 3 years between the first two and 4 years between no.2 and my twins, so 7years between my first born and my last born and that has worked for us! I never wanted to do double duties nappies with the kids so they were toilet trained before we had the next although I ended up on double duty with the twins anyway!!

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Chantel March 11, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Im creating puddles here at the computer. Thank you for this. I really needed to read it, I need to let go and stop stressing about it. Thank you xxx

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Twitchy March 11, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Oh Chantel, I wish someone had said all this as a parent to me back then, rather than intimating I was doing it wrong, or should fix it. If I’ve helped one person, I’m absolutely honoured xxx

Sheridan @Me and My Ready Made Family March 11, 2014 at 12:27 pm

My brother and I have a 6 and a half year age gap and I was always super close to him. My sister and I have a 5 year age gap and we were on/off throughout our childhood as we went through different stages of life, but in the past five years or so we have been closer than ever!
I totally agree that it is personality, and in my experience a little bit of life experience, that can bring siblings together!!!
Visiting from #IBOT

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Twitchy March 12, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Thanks for helping me prove my point, Sheridan. Age matters so much less than personality, or what siblings have in common at the time.

Lisa@RandomActsOfZen March 11, 2014 at 11:43 am

Only having one, the thing I hear most is “you’re so mean, making her an only child!”. Bell was born one month before my 39th birthday, and that was a big factor in our choice not to have any more.
My sister and I are only 2 years apart, but haven’t really been extremely close since we were in our teens. It’s definitely about personality, I think.
Yours sound like they’ll always be mates. x

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Janet aka Middle Aged Mama March 11, 2014 at 10:33 am

It is beyond me as to why people are so rude as to comment on other people’s family sizes. I guess I’m extra sensitive to this as my sister struggled with infertility and was lucky to even have one child; and I know how much it upset her when people told her she’d better “hurry up and have another one”, etc.

I’m the eldest of 4 and get on fabulously with my 2 sisters – one is 2 1/2 years younger, one is 5 years. There is 9 years between my brother and I. Admittedly we are not so close but that is more likely because I left home by the time he was 10. But he was – and always will be – my adorable baby brother, even if these days he is 6ft 2!

Visiting today from #teamIBOT xxx

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Twitchy March 12, 2014 at 11:02 pm

I wish people would think harder about commenting on people’s personal lives as well. They just don’t stop to realise how potentially hurtful it could be.

The BEST retort to unwelcome comment I ever read was only recently- an adopted child heard straight out loud by a stupid, stupid woman: “I could never love someone I didn’t give birth to.” So the adopted girl asked: “Really? Did you give birth to your husband?”

Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me March 11, 2014 at 10:24 am

I wish we’d had a bigger age gap – just so I could have had more selfish time with them all – and could remember a bit more about their younger years. But it didn’t work out that way. I agree that a child’s personality determines how it gets on with its siblings. Great post for a midnight special xx

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Maria Tedeschi (Mum's Word) March 11, 2014 at 10:00 am

There is 12 years between me and my brother and 9 years between me and my sister. My brother and I don’t have much of a relationship because my parents never really encouraged my brother to spend time with me. I have a better relationship with my sister because we had to share a room. It’s not the age gap it’s the time they spend together during those formative years. Because when everyone starts hitting their 30s and 40s the age gap is nothing.

Love & stuff
Mrs M

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Twitchy March 11, 2014 at 12:37 pm

The almost ten years between my mother and her older brother was a major factor in her decision to have us a year and a half apart. But honestly, I don’t think we’d be any more or less close in theory than we would have been if our ages were further apart.

Lee-Anne Walker March 11, 2014 at 9:50 am

We have gaps in our family too. I’ve noticed that one of the nice thing about differences in ages is the older they get, the less it matters. And when you think about it, as adults when meeting new friends we don’t squeal, “Oh sorry no, forget it – you’re five years older/younger than me!”
🙂

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Twitchy March 11, 2014 at 12:34 pm

That is so true! As someone who just had coffee with one of “mum’s friends” in our own right today, thanks for that Leanne.

Lydia C. Lee March 11, 2014 at 7:04 am

Normal is what you know, not what everyone else has.
We also have a big age gap, and in some ways it’s super sweet, and in others it’s hard to please everyone at the same time.
But that is life, isn’t it.

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Twitchy March 11, 2014 at 12:35 pm

I love that as the elder, my son can take his sweet time to grow up. While he won’t stomach too many “princess movies”- and Barbie, just forget it- there are few things they won’t watch or play happily together.

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