Last week I read an article which posed the question to it’s readers: “What’s the perfect age gap between siblings?” Thankfully, common sense prevailed and most people commented how ‘the perfect age gap’ was, in fact, totally subjective and also – more importantly – often something way beyond our control. As is the way with our society, the thoughtful responses were peppered with people thinking they had all the answers, the most popular idea being that a two year age gap was necessary to achieve ‘perfection’. These are probably the same people who believe that a (married, naturally) couple need one son and one daughter to have ‘the complete family’. (*Raises eyes to heavens*).
Well, as fate would have it, there are two years and two months between our daughters. And do you know what? It was – and I’m hoping it will be again in the future – a lovely age gap. A two year age gap initially means a teeny, tiny, cute, cuddly newborn and a two year old ball of affection, kisses and love. Perfection, you might say. The seemingly mutual adoration was almost enough to send me over the edge at times. But just when you think your emotions can’t possibly handle anymore of the sibling worship – BAM! – a two year age gap suddenly means a one year old and a three year old.
A frustrated, mardy and mobile one year old whose only mission is to explore the world around her, grabbing and touching everything she can get her hands on and clambering over anything she can mount – and an angry, confused, stubborn three year old with a hatred for sharing and other people touching and climbing on their most treasured possessions. It also therefore means a stressed, at times hysterical, permanently guilt-ridden Mother teetering somewhere in between the verge-of-tears and a nervous breakdown.
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. Secondary infertility is a very real and totally devastating prospect and having lost our second pregnancy to an early miscarriage I know how lucky we are. I love our girls with everything I have, but it is truly hard work at the moment and it has made me consider that a bigger – or even smaller to some extent – age gap might have eased some of the clashes that this current situation presents us with.
On the one hand, I hate that already our days together are limited due to the onset of preschool. On the other hand I am utterly relieved that those days have arrived. However, in eleven months, we will only have weekends together when Rose starts school. I want the girls to enjoy this time. I want to enjoy this time. So I’ve decided I’m just going to make the most of it. No, not the arguments, hair-yanking, screeching, tears and tantrums, surely no-one actually enjoys that stuff?!? Instead, I’m counting my blessings and recognising that while the girls can’t play nicely together I will have to supervise – so rather than busying myself with jobs around the house and letting them get on with it, I’m down here on the floor, playing WITH them. You know, making memories, breaking up fights, refereeing, handing out praise and punishment, that sort of thing.
So to all the “two years is ideal” people – shut the hell up. And to those of you struggling to conceive a second child – try not to let the age gap issue add even more pressure to your plight – there will always be highs, lows and varying challenges with any age combination. And to those of you parenting children heading for their first and third birthdays, I wish you luck, love and patience in abundance… I’m afraid you’re probably going to need it.