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raising kids with big age gaps

On Raising Kids With Big Age Gaps

Written by Kris Ann Valdez

Photography by Myers Video Production

Before I had children, I assumed they’d be two years apart. “That way they’ll be close,” I explained, as if I had a clue.

Then I became pregnant with my first child. Severe nausea and exhaustion clung to me the entire pregnancy, and the labor was not easy. When I finally held my sweet boy for the first time, I could not imagine going through that experience again any time soon.

When he turned two, I was in physical therapy for a gnarly shoulder injury, while my husband pursued the clinical requirements for his master’s degree. Adding another human to our lives felt outlandish. Another year-and-a-half passed before we decided to go for it, but pregnancy didn’t come quickly this time.

When I did get pregnant, we realized our children were going to be five years apart. No ideal family spread their kids out that far, right? How were they to be close friends?

“You’re practically raising two only children,” I was informed.

I felt in my heart they must be right. We’d done everything wrong and there were no takebacks. How come we hadn’t just sucked it up and had the second one earlier?

Unfortunately, this pregnancy wasn’t any easier. Nauseous, I passed out every night at 8 p.m., willing myself to get through bedtime books and teeth brushing.

Then our daughter was born. I watched our son tenderly hold and care for her, and I felt certain that they would be close, despite their age gap. This little girl was meant to be when she came, not a day, week, month, year sooner. They would love each other unconditionally because they were siblings and that would be enough to transcend the gap.

At first, it was easy. My boy was smitten with the baby stage. He loved to hold her in the crook of his arm and run errands for me. He cheered when she walked and said her first word, which was his name.

As she grew, she started ransacking his things, begging him to include her in his play. His quiet world was destroyed by a piggy-tail wearing toddler who declared herself no longer a baby.

I watched their loving relationship melt before my eyes. Self-doubt came whooshing in full force: It’s your fault they fight all the time. They can’t overcome their age difference.

When I became pregnant with our third child, I shook my head. Another 5-year gap. What were we thinking?

This one was the worst pregnancy yet. Somehow, I managed to care for my family by maternal willpower.

Our baby boy came a few months after my daughter turned five. Now, it was she who held him in the crook of her arm and ran errands for me. I had been thrust into something sacred, this quinquennial occurrence, cyclical in nature, like El Niño and LaNiña in the Pacific.

Still, I wondered in my heart about the ten years between my boys. How would they ever be truly close?

Last weekend, my eldest asked if he could take his brother down the slide.

“I’ll be very careful,” he promised.

On high alert, my protective instincts objected, but my heart tugged at the idea. “Okay, just hold him tight.”

As they zipped down the twisty slide, my friend saddled up to me.

“My husband and his big brother are very close.”

“How far apart are they?” I asked.

“Ten years,” she said. “But it doesn’t matter, they are best friends.”

I smiled, teary eyed. Inside, my heart quieted.

This third baby is still new to us. I don’t know yet what the age gap will look like in the long term, but I do know that my eldest no longer considers his sister such a baby. They have bonded over being “the big kids.”

Of course they fight, but I know now that it will be okay—this age gap I’ve created between three children. They’ll find a way to be close, even if their closeness ebbs and flows in different seasons. Because that’s true of all sibling relationships, even the ones closer in age.

Being a mother to three children in different stages means I must morph to meet very different needs. To one, I am the source of nutrition and the arms that carry. To another, I am the hand that holds hers at kindergarten drop off. And to the eldest, I am a listening ear to the pre-teen woes.

But I am okay with it. More than okay. This is my family, just as we are, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, age gaps and all.

Writer Kris Ann Valdez is a desert-dwelling Arizona native, wife, and mother. You can follow along with her at @krisannvaldezwrites on Instagram.

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  1. Rebecca says...

    I have a 10-year gap between my tween and toddler. I never really worried about their relationship, but more about my ability to keep up and stay healthy as I’m now inching toward 50. My tween is concerned she will miss a lot of her baby brother’s life once she’s a young adult and off on adventures.

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