It takes a village to raise ‘A’ child goes an old African proverb. I have come to agree with this statement with each passing day spent with Peanut.
What I didn’t realize is that the same village would not suffice to raise the second child. In all probability it would take 2 villages.
Naturally I didn’t start with that notion when we decided in favor of a second child. My naïve assumptions of ‘I have one child, second will be a cakewalk’, ‘1+1=1’, ‘2nd child will get raised by itself’ went flying out of the window as Buttercup was born and very quickly Hubby and self realized they were as different as chalk and cheese.
What applied to Peanut didn’t even pass with Buttercup.
What made it especially tough was the close age gap between the 2 kids. We barely had time to settle with Peanut and Buttercup was on her way. Peanut just about managed to walk when Buttercup arrived on the scene. Its only now looking a little easier and as my super mom friend with even closer age gap in her children said ‘Atleast we are done with it fast and life can resume some sense of normalcy sooner than later’. Maybe I need another year to pass, before I can fully appreciate that statement.
Till then I juggle with the thought and battle with the many pros and cons of the significance of sibling age gaps.
The main pro of close succession children is definitely that parents are indeed done and over with it fast, it means you get through the early years faster overall.
This, definitely helps especially while you are still very much in the rhythm of night interruptions, diaper changes et al. It could be tough to get back to that life of chaos, little and interrupted sleep and figuring out what each wail of your baby signifies. It’s very easy to forget what a sleepless night resembles after a year or two of rest.
The flipside is those couple of years can be close to hellish chaos with the parents going absolutely bananas managing a new born baby with the demands of a barely there toddler. The early years are intense and with two or more in a row, the intensity can multiply.
In my case, Peanut hadn’t started any form of pre-school and was very much a part of Buttercup’s first months of existence. From being suddenly distanced (in his mind ONLY) from his mom to just as suddenly wanting all his mom’s attention, this mom was running from one super needy toddler to one super clingy baby (contrary to my merry thinking, second children don’t just grow up on their own – they need just as much attention). On the plus side, this made me a great multitasker. So while reading Peanut his books, I would be often feeding Buttercup. During our walks, Buttercup was strapped onto me and Peanut and self explored nature. Now the responsibility had doubled, stress had doubled. One would argue that love had doubled too but at that time of being confronted with a crying baby and a shouting toddler at the very same instance, you can only think of how to restore peace and sanity and fast.
Considering this, I wonder if a wider gap would have been more beneficial. If Peanut was in school, Buttercup would have got some undivided attention. Atleast Peanut would have been on some routine and involved in some daily structured learning as opposed to dependent on Buttercup’s random feeding and sleeping pattern Then again, maybe this unstructured life’s learning and being wholly part of his sister’s growth added a dimension that no school could have provided. Who knows?
From the children’s perspective, we hopefully have provided them a lifelong companion very early on and they can pretty much grow up together.
From the parent’s perspective, all romantic notions sit on a back burner. One doesn’t really get any respite with a small age gap. Just as soon as you start getting your life back, planning on some romantic date nights, comes along another baby. With no family support (remember it takes a village…), and just 2 hapless people trying to make sense of these needy and adorable baby-toddler combination, conversations often converge to children – who changed the diaper, who’s turn is it for night duty, who feeds the toddler and before you know it the second child has grown up and off diapers and then we suddenly take a moment to breathe and realize, hey, these children came out of love and yet we couldnt find a moment to just take a time out for ourselves.
With less age gap, there is no ‘time out’ whatsoever. Its like one storm and before you can pick up the pieces comes the second storm.
But yes, we are pretty much over and done with ‘it’. If you survive those 2 storms and come away only slightly bruised, then you are alright, and like true heroes come out stronger than before.
We unknowingly chose the lesser age gap. In our naivety, we thought it would be better to have that intensive time in the one hit rather than staggering it out.
Would we have chosen the wider gap option – sure, the grass does look greener on that side. But ask me in a year and just maybe, maybe… I’ll be smiling and sitting smug that we got through 2 in a short span and then can sleep uninterrupted (sleep is the only thing on my mind these days).