Survival Tips for Raising Kids with a Large Age Gap
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Life doesn’t always work out the way you plan it. When I was in my late teens trying to figure out what I wanted to be and do when I grew up, I thought I had it all figured out. I was going to go to nursing school and have three kids, preferably not all one gender, and with three years between each child. I didn’t want my kids to have a large age gap. Oh, and I was going to do all of this before I turned 30.
None of those things happened, along with a host of other things that I thought would happen in my twenties. Instead, I am not a nurse and I have two boys who are 10 years and 11 months apart, one born in my mid-twenties and the other in my late thirties. Life doesn’t always play by our rules.
When I was 25 I got pregnant with my first son. It happened earlier in the relationship than I would have liked, but it happened and we went with the flow. We would make it through. It was all good . . . until it wasn’t less than a year later.
After five years I finally met my now husband. I was 32. We took things slow and didn’t move in together for two years and got married a year after that. After being married for a year, we decided to try and have a rugrat of our own. I was 36 so it was now or never. Surprisingly, it happened on the first try and I was due about three weeks before my oldest son’s 11th birthday.
I worried about the large age gap and starting all over again, but it’s really not as bad as I thought it would be. I loved having more time to devote to each of my babies and as it turns out, I think their large age gap is pretty cool! But it does have its challenges.
Common problems and solutions
Activities for both age groups
This can be tricky sometimes, but we have managed to keep both kids entertained with activities that they both can enjoy. Hiking, the zoo, mini golf, museums, amusement parks, and family game night are just some of the things that we can do with both kids that are age appropriate and fun for both of them.
Even though we have gotten pretty good at finding things that the whole family can enjoy, it’s still important to bring each kid out for some age appropriate one-on-one time. This is when I take my kids on a date. It may be something as simple as going out to lunch, bringing the older one to a movie, or taking the younger one to the playground.
Tag team vacations
When we go on vacation we have to work them much like we do the preceding two situations. We are going on a big family vacation this summer to Disney. We will plan plenty of activities we all enjoy, then split off and one of us will take the teenager and the other will take the younger one on age appropriate rides so they will both have fun and not feel like they missed out. The same goes for us; we will each be able to take turns riding grown up rides with our teenager.
Age appropriate interaction
This is another area in which we have to tread lightly. At 16, my older son has interests that aren’t appropriate for his 5-year-old brother. My teenager has learned to be mindful of his music, tv shows, and movies when his little brother is around. He also has his own time to watch what he likes after the little one goes to bed and his room is his music zone.
The bottom line
You have to be flexible when you are raising kids with a large age gap. Unlike closer spaced children, you have to be more creative with your time such as scheduling appointments for your older child after the younger one has had a nap or trying to rearrange nap times around your older child’s soccer practice.
While there are some challenges, overall I am very happy with their age gap and don’t think I would change a thing, and neither would they.
Hello, Regan! I’ve enjoyed your blog. I also have two boys with a big gap (secondary infertility in my case & then a miracle). I’m also an introvert and our toddler is super intense. I came across your blog while researching parenting tips for intense kids. My eldest also has intense emotions but his comes in spurts. My toddler is full on all day except nap time (if he naps). My eldest was much easier as a toddler. Though I’m an introvert I was also an intense kid and now I really have respect for my parents. Anywho, the Lord bless you as you do all you do. I know it’s hard to keep up with a blog and family. I struggle with that. I agree with your advice and the hubby and I also have to tag team. Yeah, those Lord of the Rings marathons have to happen after the tot is in bed…and the eldest doesn’t join us for story time much anymore. There’s a fun element to experiencing different stages though. We never get bored!
A unique family dynamic is actually more common when you live one yourself. Yes, I too, had my independent life planned down to a T. Then in my early 20’s I surprisingly welcomed my son. I suddenly switched to plan B. Family life wasnt the healthiest so it was plan C. Years later, I met my now husband. We welcomed our daughter 18 years after my son was born! We get looks, questions and surprised responses. The age gap is probably easier thaan chasing, bathing and carrying 2 toddlers at the same time.
I have to agree with you. In retrospect I am glad that I didn’t have two in diapers or have to chase a toddler after a sleepless night with a newborn. Life has a way of working out the way it should sometimes.
My parents had 4 kids in 5 years, then 10 years later had another kid, and then one more kid 5 years after that. I’m the oldest, which means there is 15 years between me and one of my brothers, and 20 years between me and another. I have never given much thought to what it would be like to parent children spread that far apart, but I will say that I thought it was pretty awesome sometimes, from the perspective of one of the kids! It was a GREAT learning experience to see what goes into raising a child when I was old enough to be more aware of the challenges (I definitely never thought I should have a baby just for the heck of it – I knew how much work when into it!) and I used to be able to help out babysitting or staying up late with the baby (I’m a night owl anyhow, and my mom is a morning person. I was more than happy to dance around with my little brother and put him to bed while she got some sleep – as a parent now I wish I had a teenage me to help sometimes, too!).
My older son loves to use his little brother as an excuse to do things that he may think he’s getting too old for. Two weeks ago we went to the zoo and they have a carousel. Instead of one of us standing with him as an adult rider, he volunteered to ride the carousel…you know, to make sure he wasn’t alone 😉
He doesn’t babysit while we’re not here because my little one is beyond a handful, even for us (lol), but he does love hanging out with him and keeping him occupied.