When we moved to Kansas this winter we were worried about the summer heat and thus far we have not been disappointed. It’s been well above 90 for days on end already. My husband and I keep looking at each other and saying, “and it’s only early June!” as we imagine the heat possibilities of July and August.
Thankfully we have a beautiful pool in our neighborhood. It’s only a block from our house so we basically live there. The kids are brown berries and Josie is becoming accustomed to taking a nap laying in the wagon parked in the shade.
Life is good, even though most days I feel like a bit of a spectacle at the pool.
Here I am holding a 1 month old baby, often nursing, while my 3 other small children, 5 years and under, run around, playing and fighting with each other. They wear puddle jumpers from the moment we step inside the gate, so safety isn’t an issue, but for most people in the neighborhood we are still a bit of a sight.
They watch for a while, count. Then they ask, “Are they all yours?” And when I confirm that they are, I always get the same “Wow, you’ve really got your hands full. I could NEVER do that!”
I nod and shrug. Each person, exactly the same.
Except one day this last week, the conversation was different.
We were there, soaking up some cool pool time. My husband was at work. I was sitting on the edge of the pool in the shade holding Josie and throwing out a ball for Gus to swim to. Families were coming and going. One came and set up camp near us. Their three children, ages 13, 6 and 2, jumped in and the parents settled along the edge next to me. The mother inquired about my kids, their ages, their names. She studied the kids and I could see a thought forming as she chewed her lips.
“I should have done that,” she said.
“What?” I asked.
“I should have done that. I should have had the kids closer. Look at them,” she said, gesturing toward Gus, Bernadette and Dominic who were playing/fighting over a couple of water guns. “They have each other in a way my kids don’t. You did a good thing here.”
I looked over at my children. We are just now emerging from survival mode around here. Josie is a sweet baby, but she is still a baby and I have yet to figure out everything involved in being a mother to 4 little ones, at home, the pool, Vacation Bible School, anywhere. Leaving the house is a major undertaking. Often times I feel like this little family of mine is spinning out of control, that my husband and I bit off a little more than we can chew, that we really are crazy.
But as I looked over I saw it too. They really do have each other.
I wish I could say I added something profound to this conversation. But I didn’t. I nodded and then some kid-generated distraction pulled me away.
I keep thinking about this, though. About the benefits of NOT spacing kids. I get a lot of feedback about how crazy we are, to have kids this closely. Some people even suggest that what we have done is irresponsible or selfish, that we can’t possibly give all these kids everything they need. And the idea of having even more kids–well just that’s totally bananas.
Spacing seems to be the thing to do.
But, there are real benefits to NOT spacing, to having kids close. There are!
Before I launch into this, however, I want to add a very clear disclaimer. There are very real and important reasons why couples space their children. Difficult pregnancies, infertility, miscarriage, and the millions of stresses and complications life can throw your way can making having kids close impossible. I get that. If these years of fertility have taught me anything it is that I don’t have control and I need to surrender that control every single day.
But, if you have the choice to space or not space your kids, consider some of these very real benefits–and not just that you get to “condense the baby years” or “get done with diapers sooner”. I’m talking about actual benefits, not just conveniences.
1. They Aren’t Jealous When a New Baby Comes
Josie makes 4 kids around here and never have I had to deal with another sibling being jealous or upset when the baby comes home. This is mostly due to the fact that our spacing between kids is less than 2 years–and closer to a year and a half in most cases.
At first the former baby of the family might be a little confused about the new little person always hanging out in mom’s arms, but 48 hours into the baby being home they don’t seem to remember a time before we had a new baby. They love and kiss the new baby because, it seems to them, that this is just what we do in this family and always have done.
Isn’t that beautiful! To them, they have always had a younger sibling. In their eyes the baby fits so perfectly into our family that the idea of the baby every not being there seems impossible. I love that.
2. They Always Have Someone to Play/Fight With
I grew up with a sister 2 years older than me and another one 16 months younger…and a couple more siblings even younger. My sisters and I were close enough in age to all be on the swim team and marching band together. We showed cattle together, took trips together, drove to school together each and every day. We got on each other’s nerves and fought like any sisters, but we really had each other, always.
And my kids have the same thing. If they wake up at 6am, there is someone there to play with. If we are on a trip or have the entire neighborhood pool to ourselves, their best friends are there too. They are really so lucky!
The best part–I get to sit and hold my baby while they play together. Mom is boring, and I’m totally cool with being left out of their games.
3. They Learn to Share (Because They Have To)
I am becoming more and more convinced that learning to share is one of the most important lessons we learn–and that many adults never master this skill.
My kids are still very much learning to share, but the thing about having siblings close is that you have to learn to share. They are in the same stage and like the same toys–and I’m not about to buy 4 of everything. No, they have to learn to share. There are plenty of fights in my house and they fail at sharing more than they succeed, but I also see them starting to enjoy sharing.
At the moment Gus, Bernadette and Dominic all share a room–and they love it. Sometimes they complain about one snoring or singing at night, but through sharing a room they also have a shared identity–they are the “big kids” and that is pretty cool.
So, there is my 2 cents. Leaving big gaps between your kids doesn’t have to be the ideal. Sure, it’s not fun being pregnant and still carrying around a baby that’s not walking yet, but in my experience at least, it’s worth it.