Thursday, 31 July 2008

Mind the gap

A friend, who has one child, asked me the other day what I thought was the ideal gap between children.

Is there such a things as an ideal gap? I don’t know. The Littleboys are 19 months apart - a similar spacing to the children of at least five other couples I know well. With most of us, I suspect that child 2 was conceived a little bit quicker than expected. (Why? I have a couple of theories. First, as the first child approaches one year old and life becomes a little easier, sex life suddenly resumes and you’re so relieved to be getting some action that attention to contraception flies out of the window. Or, it could that people start ‘trying’ at this point with a 2 year gap in mind, and for some reason are much more fertile than they think…)

There are a few benefits to this age gap. The Littleboys are close enough in age that they can enjoy the same things without the older one sneering and finding them too babyish –so splashing in the bath is still hilariously funny, and they can both sit, transfixed, watching Pingu while drinking their bedtime milk. And although we still have two in nappies (Littleboy 1’s neverending toilet training saga will probably end just as his brother starts) dressing them is a bit like a production line – pop them on the mat, on goes the nappy, Sudocrem and clothes and, voila, they’re ready to go.

Clothing, incidentally, is also not a problem – rather than having to pack away outgrown clothes for several years, it’s only a few months until the younger one fits them. You can virtually transfer things from one chest of drawers to another.

But would I recommend this age gap? There are, shall we say, challenges. At the moment, aged 3 and 1, they are both essentially still toddlers – albeit one slightly bigger and less likely to fall over. And like all toddlers, they have monstrous egos, little sense of danger, no sense of fair play and a massive capacity for destruction.

Sharing is anathema to both of them. Everything is MINE. They both want to go first – whether it’s getting out of the car or bath, or getting a cuddle from Mummy. They both subject you a series of physical assaults (eg.flip flops, in the face, at 6am) and relentless demands (more milk Mummy, the bath’s too cold, I want to read the Gruffalo NOW). It's a bit like being Naomi Campbell’s PA.

Food throwing is a competitive sport; cleaning up after each meal resembles a rescue operation after a major disaster. Competitive toy throwing is also popular – so our once-smart wooden floor is dented from the repeated batterings with Megabloks and matchbox cars.

In the playground, they both go off in different directions; and while Littleboy 2 is the more vulnerable, and the one to be followed at all costs, his brother is also liable to get stuck at the top of the climbing frame or lose sight of me and start screaming. And at the supermarket, they are both still small enough to sit in the trolley, whereupon they scrap like a couple of puppies.

I hope one day that the Littleboys will be the best of friends, and thank me for bringing them into the world so close in age. But for now it’s a case of damage limitation. As another friend put it to me the other day, one baby is a pet; two is a zoo.

12 comments:

The Dotterel said...

Sounds hard work. It wasn't planned, but the ten year gap between Sally and her brother has worked perfectly - she's like an unpaid nanny, changing nappies, playing with him, getting him dressed and all sorts of other things (voluntarily, I hasten to add). Mind you, it might have been different.

Tara@From Dawn Till Rusk said...

there is a 3 year age gap between my son and his younger sister - but she just thinks she is a 5-year-old boy anyway!

GoneBackSouth said...

Yeah everyone's different, I guess you just have to relish the joys of whatever you get. I love the fact that mine are 20 months are apart, but I can see the benefits of a bigger (or smaller) gap too.

valley girl said...

Dottorel, that sounds like it works really well - like the idea of an unpaid nanny!

Tara - I think 3 years is quite a good gap - my sister is 3 years younger than me. It's close enough to play together, but the older one must be slightly more sensible by the time sibling is a toddler? Or maybe not?!

GBS, I agree - yesterday, looking at these two tiny angelic blond boys playing together with a football, I was so glad they are close in age. (By the way your holiday sounded fab).

Frog in the Field said...

Gap?
I have on ein playgroup, one in Primary, one in senior school.
Sometimes I think 4 years between each is great, then I forget who's where and who needs picking up at what time. I miss parents evenings and open days..I'm very confused!

valley girl said...

That does sound confusing. (I would be hopeless, I can't even keep track of my pram - see my January post http://nappyvalleygirl.blogspot.com/2008/01/losing-it.html

Potty Mummy said...

We managed 2 years 4 months between Boys and so far that seems to be working. Though must say that the first 7 months of Boy #2's life when Boy #1 was still in nappies was somewhat challenging. I still clearly remember the moment when, having only changed Boy #2 for a couple of weeks after he was born (was not allowed bo lift Boy #1 due to emergency c-section), I then changed his older brother. Where did this teenage bottom come from, I wondered?...

valley girl said...

Hi PM - yeah, I remember that feeling too. Trouble is, we are still there, as Littleboy 1 seems to think waiting all day till he's got a nappy on and then poo-ing is acceptable...

Eve said...

Ideal gap? You mean these things can be planned? OMG :)

I have a year gap then a seven year gap then a twelve month gap.....no it wasn't a plan and if it had been it would of been a stupid one. All things considered same sex siblings good close together, different sex ones not. Ever tried taking one to football and the other to ballet at the same time in two different directions? We plumped for Judo.

valley girl said...

Hi Eve, agreed about same sex siblings, the clothes thing wouldn't work so well otherwise, and at least they both enjoy tractors, cars and Bob the Builder....your brood sounds enjoyabley chaotic!

A Confused Take That Fan said...

I have a 2 year 9 month age gap (we started trying for our second when baby number 1 was two years old...) and both girls. Works quite well, still have the MINE thing going on, flip flops being chucked at me at 6am and dents in wooden floor from building blocks though. I couldn't even contemplate baby number two for two whole years. I enjoyed having my body back and feeling myself for a while. Question is now - What age gap should I go for if I go for number 3??

Iota said...

Naomi Campbell's PA. What a great way of putting it.

I don't think there is such a thing as the ideal age gap, because so many other variables come into play (gender, personality, life).