The moment my first child was born, and I felt that crazy love, I wanted another baby right away. I wanted 100 babies. We started trying in earnest when our daughter was barely a year old. Which was crazy. Had I gotten pregnant right away, I could have had two kids under two. And I would now be bald, having ripped out all my hair.
I'm sure there are all sorts of plusses to having kids close in age, like the way they play together, but it just looks so damn hard. Two kids in diapers. Two kids in tantrum. Two Xanax for Mommy.
Knowing what I know now, I'm so glad my children ended up being more than four years apart. Some would say that's too big a spread for them ever to be BFF's, but I disagree. There are siblings close in age who despise each other, and others who've overcome wide gaps to become best buds. Time will tell. Until then, I'm enjoying eight amazing advantages of the four year spread:
1. Preschool — Since my older daughter is already in school, I have alone time with my little one every morning, and I treasure it. The first half of the day is quiet, lazy and sweet. The second half is utter chaos, and that's okay, but if I didn't have my solo baby time, I'd be way more frazzled.
2. Drop off play-dates — At age four, the big one's just old enough to spend a few hours at a friend's house without separation anxiety or drama, freeing up me up to handle small baby-mergencies when needed.
3. Baby safety — It's comforting that a 4-year-old can understand the baby rules: wash your hands before touching, no fingers on baby's face, and be gentle. I'd say she follows these rules at least 62% of the time. At least I know she'd never purposely try to hurt the baby, though sometimes her affection can be borderline smothering. Which brings us to . . .
4. Baby love — A younger child might ignore an infant, but my 4-year-old adores her baby sister. The first time I let her cuddle our newborn on her lap, she exclaimed, "I can't believe I'm holding a real live baby!" Way better than a Corolle doll. Except Mom won't let her drag the real live baby up and down the stairs.
5. My little helper — Sometimes Big Sister takes her role very seriously, assisting me by fetching wipes, tossing dirty diapers in the pail and singing a soothing round of Twinkle Twinkle when needed. She can be really helpful . . . unless she's watching Sophia the First, and then I'm on my own.
6. Less gear — My 4-year-old is done using her crib, high chair, and other baby/toddler gear, so it's all ready (if a little banged up) for baby. And there's no need for a double stroller, since she never sits down.
7. Good talks — When my first kid feels frustrated by the changes in our family, she knows how to express herself, telling me in no uncertain terms, "Mom, you need to spend more time with me!" I'm grateful for her honestly, and sometimes I can head off a big melt-down just by hearing her out and scheduling a frozen yogurt date.
8. Their own identities — Jan Brady grew up in the shadow of Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. But my girls won't even attend high school at the same time. Hopefully, the little one can escape comparisons and forge her own path.
9. A slowly emptying nest — When my first is headed to college (sniffle, sniffle, sob), my little one will just be starting high school, which I hope will help ease the pain. Maybe, just as insurance, we should have one more baby four years from now. Shhh, nobody tell my husband.