Tessie and I want to talk about spacing babies, and the rest of you are welcome to join us. I feel obligated to warn you that this is one of my favorite topics in the whole world. I will try to edit this post so that it is not the length and breadth of eternity, but I can't really promise anything.
I will go first, by reviewing the spacing of my own children and how that's worked out. Settle in: there are a lot of them.
Robert was born first. Our plan was to take things one baby at a time and not plan ahead of time to have a certain number, but to see how things went. I'm not sure how many minutes after Rob's birth it was when I started planning the second baby. Perhaps it was while I was still pregnant.
Paul and I spent Rob's babyhood discussing what would be the right spacing between the first and second children. Through questioning and observing, we decided that there was no clearly "right" spacing: too much depends on unknowns such as the personality types of the children. Some siblings love being close in age and some hate it; some siblings love a bigger gap and some feel like they grew up as strangers. We had to choose something, though, and what we decided on was something in the 2-1/2 to 3 year range. That seemed close enough for companionship, far enough to let us breathe a little between children--and far enough to have the first one be a little more house-trained and independent before the second one came along.
I, like so many women before and after me, thought it would be a good idea to have a running start. It was as if I thought that by allowing extra months to conceive, I would use up all my "no luck" months and then get to conceive the first month I actually wanted to. Was I trying to pull one over on Fate or something? Fate thought that was pretty funny. I stopped using birth control four months before the 2-1/2 year spacing time, and got pregnant right away. So our first two children are 2 years 2 months apart.
That spacing has advantages and disadvantages, as do all spacings. It's close enough that Rob doesn't remember a time before William was born, and he doesn't remember William's arrival. Rob was also young enough (and was of the personality) that he didn't seem jealous or sad about the new baby. If he'd been older, perhaps he would have better understood the significance of a new sibling, but as it was, we might as well have acquired a new noisy kitchen appliance. He ignored William. We didn't see any trauma, and we were looking hard.
For the first few years, even a 2-year spacing is too far apart for the kids to have much in common unless the older one is nurturing and wants to do baby things with the baby. A 1-year-old is doing entirely different things than a 3-year-old. Even at ages 6 and 8, Rob is clearly significantly older than William. They can play together, but they're a kindergartner and a second grader.
Our plan was to have a third baby with approximately the same spacing, since the 2 years and 2 months worked well for us. Then Paul's employer went out of business, he was out of work for a year and a half, and I got a paying job. People say things like "There's never a 'perfect time' to have a baby"--but there sure are times that can be avoided, and this was one of them. When he found a new job, we waited 90 days for his health insurance to take effect, and then it took three months for me to get pregnant. The twins were born when Rob was 6 and William was 4.
That gives us two more spacings to look at: the 6-year and the 4-year. Rob had not been happy about us having another baby, probably because he considers William a pain in the butt. Two babies was even worse. Until they were born. He loves the twins. They bug him and follow him around and hit him enthusiastically in the face, and he loves them. When he gets home from school he goes to find the twins and play with them and let them flop on him. He talks to them in the higher-pitched voice adults use with small children.
William considers himself allied with Rob as one of the "older kids." He likes the twins, too, but I think it's mostly because Rob does and William followed his example. If William had been the oldest, and then a four-year gap before the next baby, I think William would have been jealous and would have felt left out. Four years old is old enough to resent a new baby and to partially understand the impact on the family and the loss of attention. And William is, personality-wise, less independent and more lovey than Rob, which I think makes for a more difficult acceptance of younger children. Even at age 2, Rob seemed to enjoy the "big kid" status that younger siblings give older siblings.
Now we're having another. This new baby will be born when Rob is 8, William is 6, and the twins are a couple of weeks away from turning 2. Rob has been excited all along, and my guess is that he'll be even fonder of this baby than he was of the twins, since this time he knows he likes babies. I'll be interested to see if William at age 6 will be similar to Rob at age 6, and if he'll be more naturally inclined to like this baby even without Rob's example.
If the twins are anything like Rob was at age 2, they'll be a cross between oblivious and annoyed: not understanding that the new baby is a person, and irritable that they can't be on my lap because the new baby is there--but not with any deeper knowledge of the new baby as interloper, just the same annoyance they'd feel if I had a box on my lap, or a book taking my attention.
But as I said, these things are so affected by the particular child. My brother and I were 2 years apart and we played together all the time, whereas Rob and William are the same spacing but don't get along well. Rob definitely likes babies better the older he is, but maybe William would have been happier with a baby born shortly after he was. The twins might incorporate this new baby as an honorary triplet, or they might close ranks against him--or maybe Edward will bond to the new baby and Elizabeth will separate even more from Edward.
I would be interested to hear your experiences with baby spacing: what you grew up with, what you've done with your own children and/or what you plan to do, what you've heard is good/bad, what you've always thought would be nice. Go ahead and write a book in the comment section, or write your own post and put a link in the comment section. Tessie and I, we want to hear everything you've got.
And soon I think we should discuss a different but related topic: deciding whether or not to have another baby, and deciding when to stop.
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