There is a 19.5 month age gap between my two.
The toddler is now a feisty and talkative 28.5 month old, and the no-so-little-anymore one a slightly-more-interesting-and-less-screamy-than-he-was 9 months. I think that anything under two years – the much maligned ‘two under two’ – counts as a small age gap. Certainly it gives old ladies cause to say ‘gosh, you’ve got your hands full!’ pretty much all of the time.
I definitely couldn’t have faced it sooner; hats off to those mums. They should really start headhunting them for the marines as soon as their kids start school as it must be a piece of piss compared to bringing up two babies at the same time.
I’ll admit we did not do a lot of research before deciding to go ahead with number two. I had it in my mind for some reason that two years was the ‘ideal’ age gap, despite the fact that with 25 months between us, my sister and I had grown up mainly trying to hurt each other. Anyway, aware that these things rarely happen precisely when you mean them to, we gave it a little leeway and here we are.
Going from one to two, with any age gap, is never going to be easy.
First babies are HARD. You can do the antenatal courses, you can watch One Born Every Minute and Supernanny, you can work in a nursery by day and babysit your nieces and nephews by night and nothing prepares you for it, not at all.
When the second baby is on its way you have the vague notion that it will be easier now you’re a veteran parent. Been there, done that. Survived it, too. You’ll be way more relaxed this time. Except not only will you have forgotten precisely everything, you might secretly be hoping (or maybe fearing) that they will be the same… and they won’t be. We thought that no newborn could be as bad as our refluxy, non-sleeping firstborn. Well, some malicious deity must have heard our thoughts and thought ‘challenge accepted’. Thus, my poor, refluxy, colicky, screamy baby boy was born.
I won’t lie. It has driven me to the very edge of my sanity.
This won’t be a surprise to anyone who has read my previous posts. The past nine months have been sponsored by epic, constant tiredness which can only come from night time tag teaming; you have one down, the other waits until you have just drifted off and then starts to wail. Dealing with these sleepless nights, endless puddles of sick and my daughter who had the audacity of demanding to be fed, changed, dressed and loosely supervised, was no mean feat. I’ve had the delight of toddler tantrums and colic coinciding; I’ve listened to a lot of screaming. Quite a bit of it my own. There has been a lot of shit to deal with, figuratively and definitely literally (incidentally, my personal record is SEVEN pooey bums before 9am, and that’s just the kids). Some days I just wanted to curl up in bed and let the dog babysit. Fortunately, being the medal-winning parent I am, I did not.
It was also pretty scary having one set of hands and two children to manage.
My daughter is the sensible, hand holding type, but she is still only two years old; there is a limit to what I can expect from her. The baby is, as babies are, entirely unpredictable. Alone, in public, it makes for a panic-inducing combination.
To start with, I only left the house with the heavier one strapped into the buggy and the lighter one strapped to my front. No escaping until the destination, which would be somewhere child friendly with other adults that I knew. The thought of taking them out anywhere but the park, or perhaps a toddler group where they could scream to their heart’s content and still not be the most annoying children there, was quite frankly a little terrifying.
However, little by little, I got more confident.
Or perhaps I just started caring less. Either way, when I first managed to do the supermarket shop on my own with both the kids in tow, I knew that it was going to be OK. Although it’s taken us a while to find our routine, I’m not nervous any more. I can deal with it. Leaving the house is still a monumental effort compared to how it was pre-kids, but it can be done in half the time these days. I’ve even braved day trips, and had fun.
So the question is, would I do it again?
Now we are a little way down the road I can reflect back on the time with hindsight, as well as the happy knowledge that I never, ever have to do it again, and whilst remembering (vividly) how difficult it has been I can also concede that there are a lot of pros of small age gaps.
There has been no jealousy, and although I know no different many people report that it’s easier to get the hardest part out of the way and to keep getting no sleep than to have a brief reprieve and then put yourself through it all over again years later. They will be one year apart at school so I’ll only have one year of dashing from one school to another at drop off and pick up. They can share toys; the big one doesn’t own too many choking risks, which is good. A few years older and I’d probably be finding loom bands and aqua beads in the little one’s nappy.
Above all else, the love they clearly have for each other makes even my stone-cold heart melt.
The baby laughs hysterically at anything the toddler does and she demands to give him a kiss and a cuddle goodnight. Over the baby monitor I can hear her chatting away to him once the door is closed and see her checking up on him, which is very cute (for up to five minutes, then it isn’t any more). They already entertain each other greatly and I have high hopes that in a under a year I’ll be able to lie on the sofa whilst they leave me alone; that is the ultimate goal.
Of course, they could just as easily be stealing each other’s toys and drawing blood.
I’ll keep you posted.