About the time my daughter turned two, something odd began to happen. The general public had a lot of opinions about something that isn’t their business, but I got their opinions anyway. OK, that part wasn’t new, but they all wanted something very specific: “They” (e.g., random strangers) wanted me to have another child. Oh yes, people who had no intentions of supporting me emotionally or financially thought it was time that I procreate again. How do I know this? Because they told me so! In the grocery store, I’d get a “she needs a sibling” from somebody else’s grandma. At mommy and me classes, I’d hear, “Ready for another one?” Even friends and family inquired, “Are you having more?” I hardly knew how to respond, as I myself had no idea when or if we would have another child.
(Interestingly enough, I have also observed that if you have babies 12 months apart, or if you have a lot of babies, it seems to make the general public very nervous. What do they want from us?!)
When my daughter turned four, something even more peculiar occurred. People stopped asking, almost completely. I realized that in most people’s eyes, I was officially a mom of one, and that was final. So, according to my calculations, the “perfect window” for having children, as perceived by the general public, is 2–4 years apart. Apparently my window had closed. Most of my friends were three kids in at this point and had their plans laid out for a couple more before they stopped.
On some days, I felt like less of a mommy than my other mom friends. While they were juggling all different challenges from many different ages and phases of childhood at once, my singular child was consuming all of my attention. What used to be semi quiet “playdates” with my mom friends, spent sipping hot coffee and watching our two babies play together, turned into a house full of kids as their families grew and grew. Sometimes I envied these moms. They had cute baby bumps or squishy babies to hold, and their kids had playmates to spend their days with.
But for us, it wasn’t the right time. I spent five years waiting—first wondering if we would ever have more, then hoping we would have more, then trying and planning for more.
All the while, I loved and savored the one-on-one time I had with my daughter. We got to share SO MANY fun experiences together, just the two of us. I was right there for all of her firsts, all the way up until she started school. Having that time with her, was a blessing. When she was almost six years old, I found out I was pregnant. She was ecstatic! But wanting a little brother, and actually getting a little brother, are so very different. I’m sure it’s hard for a six-year-old to imagine just how much our lives were about to change.
Friends said to me, “Don’t worry; you will still give her enough attention.” But I wasn’t worried about that.
They assured me, “Yes, you will love this one just as much as you love your first one!” But I wasn’t worried about that either.
I was worried that I had waited too long. What if I was going to be parenting two kids who were practically on different planets? Even I had forgotten what it was like to have a baby. In six years, so many things have changed! It was a whole new journey for all of us.
I became obsessed with observing siblings with a large age gap. I asked my friend what it was like for them and their youngest siblings. When I met families who had large age gaps between their kids, I’d anxiously inquire, “What is it like? Do they get along? How did the eldest one adjust?” I often heard the same thing: “I loved it.”
I was constantly reassured that my oldest would “be a good helper,” but even that concerned me some. I didn’t want her to feel like I had given birth to a chore, something for her to help out with. I hoped that she wouldn’t feel like we had expected her to help raise this child, or just be the “permanent babysitter” when she’s older. I wanted her to have a friend, a playmate.
I began to really take notice of how she interacted with her cousin, who is six years older than she. She looks up to him so much and always finds ways to play with him. They have vastly different things that they enjoy doing in their spare time, but they still find ways to enjoy things together. Sometimes she will sit and watch him play videos games, and sometimes he helps her run her stuffed animal veterinary clinic. Recently, they even began a small prank war, and she’s held her own against her older cousin. Watching them brought me peace, as I neared my due date.
Finally the day came that we had all anticipated for years, and our second child was born. Right after I held my son and finally got to see what he looked like, I couldn’t wait to introduce his sister to him. She adored him instantly. The three of us basically fight over whose turn it is to hold the baby. Lucky for me, I have his one food source attached to my chest, so I win pretty often. When it was sister’s turn to hold him, she smiled from ear to ear and gazed at him with as much awe and wonder as I had. His farts and baby grunts made her laugh, and when he curled his finger around hers or turned toward her voice, she felt so special.
And everybody was right: she is the best helper. But not because I have asked her to be or because I need it, but because she wants to be, and that’s how she bonds with her baby brother. She made up a song that she sings to him if he fusses. She practices her reading with him, and he makes an excellent captive audience. She’s eager to teach him silly faces, and stands over him contorting her face in all kinds of ridiculous ways.
If anything, my fears of my oldest being left out have turned into fears of her being spoiled rotten! Grandmas, aunts, and Mom and Dad have all made an effort to give her the one-on-one time she’s used to. Babies nap a LOT, so I still get to have many one-on-one moments with my big girl. Since her little brother’s birth, she’s had several outings for just her. Yes, there are some major changes for our little family, but they are happy changes that we are all finding ways to adjust to.
I know that she and her brother will fight, argue, tease each other, embarrass each other, and drive me nuts together. But they will also have each other’s back, keep each other’s secrets, be each other’s best friends, and share something that they will never share with anyone else: childhood, even if they are in different parts of it at different times.
If you find yourself in the same position I was, don’t worry, mama; your window hasn’t closed. Have your babies however far apart life brings them. They will be just fine.