A couple days ago, after a long day which led to an eventual late night return home with still so many things left to accomplish, my almost thirteen year old first born said to me:
“Mom what do you need help with?”
My heart melted and my mind raced. I couldn’t help but think that this is what I have been waiting for. You know when your toddler says,
“I do it,”
and all you can think is that it is about to take 45 minutes to accomplish a five minute task and during that time frame you will have as many meltdowns as your toddler because they cannot actually “do it”?
This was not one of those times. Insert all the praise hand emojis.
After over a decade of doing all the things for all the people, to have my almost teenager selflessly offer up help and actually be able to give help without my supervision was an incredible moment and sense of accomplishment.
Here, let’s back up. I have five kids and that usually elicits some form of reaction from society so I will pause for dramatic effect.
Despite all my google searches I was never able to find a mathematical formula that I could use to help me decide how many kids to have or how far apart to space them so we had to decide for ourselves and now we have kids who are currently ages 12, 10, 8, 7, and 5.
For some reason having a baby while I still had a baby at home seemed feasible.
That is until we brought that baby home and then I found myself daydreaming about life with kids who could all be helping get their own lunches while I breastfed the newest family member instead of having to choose between meltdowns of starving toddlers versus figuring out how to breastfeed while standing up and preparing meals.
Back in those days, a home cooked meal consisted of frozen chicken nuggets that were cooked in the oven and not just heated on a plate in the microwave.
Our days were endless repeats of waking up, feeding kids, dressing kids, entertaining kids, coordinating nap times, feeding kids, entertaining kids, picking up after kids, feeding kids, entertaining kids, and finally putting kids to bed.
I remember having “aha” moments where I felt I was able to get my head above water and we had a routine that did not involve Netflix and chill but something would always happen to leave our internal resources drained and we would fall back into survival mode.
While I cannot remember the exact moments of “we got this” and “it’s getting easier” off the top of my head, my son asking me what I needed help with was an absolute indicator that the tide is shifting.
Apparently, we blinked and have now entered a stage in life where we are reaping the benefits of surviving the absolute chaos of creating a large family in a short time frame and I am here for it.
I mean there is still chaos and overwhelm but it is different.
I haven’t changed a dirty diaper in over two years and it is as glorious as you would imagine it to be.
Our day care costs have dwindled and my kids are spaced just far enough apart that we will not have more than two in braces at any one time but we should still be able to have their braces paid off before anyone goes to college.
They can read to themselves which means I can read to myself and they are big enough to pick up after themselves.
To be clear, they don’t but they could and that counts.
They can play without being constantly supervised but they still want me to watch their trampoline tricks and mull over their sidewalk chalk art.
All that to say that there I don’t think there is a perfect spacing system between siblings.
I honestly thought that having two years between each child was perfect but then my husband would bring all the kids to visit their new baby sibling in the hospital and I would have a slight moment of panic where I would think “what did we do” and maybe the parents who wait until one child is in kindergarten before having another were the ones who nailed it.
There is magic in watching the relationship develop between my kids who are two years apart and again watching the relationship between my oldest and youngest who are eight years apart and all the dynamics forming between all the siblings of all the age gaps.
There is no way to advocate that one age distance is easier or more manageable or more worth it than another.
They all present their challenges and they all enchant us with their rewards and they are all totally worth it.